The Drug Enforcement Administration is not having a great year.
The chief of the agency stepped down in April under a cloud of scandal. The acting administrator since then has courted ridicule for saying pot is “probably not” as dangerous as heroin, and more recently he provoked100,000 petition-signers and seven members of Congress to call for his head after he called medical marijuana “a joke.”
This fall, the administration earned a scathing rebuke from a federal judge over its creative interpretation of a law intended to keep it from harassing medical marijuana providers. Then, the Brookings Institution issued a strongly worded report outlining the administration’s role in “stifling medical research” into medical uses of pot.
Unfortunately for the DEA, the year isn’t over yet. Last week, a group of 12 House members led by Ted Lieu (D) of California wrote to House leadership to push for a provision in the upcoming spending bill that would strip half of the funds away from the DEA’s Cannabis Eradication Programand put that money toward programs that “play a far more useful role in promoting the safety and economic prosperity of the American people”: domestic violence prevention and overall spending reduction efforts.
Each year, the DEA spends about $18 million in efforts with state and local authorities to pull up marijuana plants being grown indoors and outdoors. The program has been plagued by scandal and controversy in recent years. In the mid-2000s, it became clear that the overwhelming majority of “marijuana” plants netted by the program were actually “ditchweed,” or the wild, non-cultivated, non-psychoactive cousin of the marijuana that people smoke.