At the end of May, the US House of Representatives made headlines for voting on an amendment that would restrict the Drug Enforcement Agency from obstructing state industrial hemp programs, and from cracking down on medical marijuana facilities. An email from the Drug Policy Alliance states, “the U.S. House made an historic move by voting to prohibit the Drug Enforcement Administration from interfering with state medical marijuana laws. The bipartisan amendment passed with 219 ‘yes’ votes.” Adding “After years of hard work with our allies in Congress, there is now bipartisan consensus in favor of letting states set their own marijuana policies. And the votes are an embarrassment for the DEA, a federal agency that represents everything that’s wrong with the war on drugs.
An end to our country’s failed 40-year drug war is truly within sight.”
This is definitely a good sign, and those members of Congress who voted to restrict the DEA should be lauded for doing the right thing. However, I feel I must disagree with the DPA. I don’t believe that the end of the drug war is in sight. If anything, this vote will become a rallying cry for supporters of the drug war. Even if the amendment that restricts the DEA in some areas makes it through the Senate and past the President, the DEA is going to receive a $35 million raise! You read that right. Despite voting to restrict the DEA from interfering in states with legal industrial hemp or medicinal cannabis, the House is increasing the DEA’s budget by $35 million.
Congressman Jared Polis put forth an amendment to only give the DEA the amount requested. That amendment was defeated by a vote of 339-66. Before the vote on the Polis amendment, Polis asked on the House floor, “What has the DEA done to deserve a $35 million raise? Why are we singling out the DEA to receive funds above what the DEA itself requested in the president’s budget? The DEA has demonstrated time and time again that it can’t efficiently manage the resources it already has. It’s diverting funds to ridiculous things like impounding industrial hemp seeds, which have no narcotic content, intimidating legal marijuana businesses in states like mine [Colorado], wasting money on marijuana infractions that are legal in states where they occur.”
Polis doesn’t specifically mention the fact that the DEA has also raided businesses that previously sold products that contained synthetic cannabis, which was placed on the Schedule I of the list of controlled substances earlier this year, nor does he specify the countless men, women, children, and animals that have been killed because of the war on drugs, spear-headed by the DEA. I would like to be optimistic that the vote to restrict a small portion of the DEA’s authority is a step towards ending the drug war; however, I am realistic in believing there is still a lot of work to be done before the DEA is even abolished!