Congressmen Take Aim At Federal Crackdown on Pot

By May Wilkerson 09/25/15

Can a Democrat and a Republican work together to end the DEA's reign of terror on weed?

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Though more and more states are easing marijuana regulations and legalizing it for medical and recreational use, the plant remains illegal under federal law. But two congressman, Democrat Ted Lieu of California and Republican Justin Amash of Michigan, are working together to block the DEA from aggressively cracking down on pot with federal funds.

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives unanimously passed an amendment to slash funding for the DEA’s marijuana eradication efforts by 50%. The author of the amendment, Rep. Ted Lieu of California, is now working to cut the funding all together.

“We had such strong support [in June], we figured why not just eliminate all funding,” says Lieu. “It’s a waste of federal resources and ends up driving up prices for Americans.” He and Amash are now pushing legislation that would eliminate the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program.

Through this program, the DEA spent $18 million in 2014 alone, arrested 6,310 people and confiscated over a million marijuana plants. The program is funded through the Department of Justice’s controversial civil asset forfeiture fund, which allows authorities to seize money and property from people who have been suspected of a crime, but not convicted.

Civil assets forfeiture, according to Amash, allows for “innocent people to have their property taken without sufficient due process.” He says this kind of aggressive federal enforcement “is especially troubling given that the federal government should not be expending resources on marijuana prohibition—enforcement is a state-level issue, and an increasing number of states are deciding to back off from prohibition.”

If the new bill passes, Lieu says: “The supply of marijuana would increase because you won’t have the DEA actively trying to destroy marijuana plants."

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and other marijuana advocacy groups have praised the bill as a major step towards blocking federal prohibition of pot.

“Representatives Lieu and Amash should be commended for having the insight to understand our current approach isn’t working and the courage to do something about it,” said Dan Riffle, MPP’s Director of Federal Policies. “The Marijuana Policy Project wholeheartedly supports this sensible legislation and we look forward to helping to pass it.”

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.