By Ryan J. Reilly, Talking Points Memo - Thursday, February 3 2011
With Republicans in the House looking to cut down on spending in the next fiscal year, supporters of legalizing marijuana have a suggestion for where they should start -- the Drug Enforcement Agency's budget.
Sure, they know it's a long shot. But the Marijuana Policy Project's Steve Fox told TPM it makes a lot of sense.
"In the grand scheme of things, the entire federal budget dedicated to keeping marijuana illegal and carrying out all the enforcement measures to do so is really something that is long past its prime," Fox said.
"I'm not naive enough to think there would be such a major step, but you can just pick it apart and look at the marijuana seizures -- the amount of time and energy put into those seizures -- is really doing essentially nothing except maybe having a marginal effect on the price of marijuana," Fox said. "So all they're really doing is giving those involved in illegal marijuana dealing a little bit of price support."
Attorney General Eric Holder, whose Justice Department oversees the DEA, issued a memo last monthtelling the agency (as well as the FBI, ATF and U.S. Marshals Service) to freeze hiring and curb non-personnel spending.
That came around the same side as conservative Republicans in the House said they planned deep budget cuts -- which, according to Democrats, would require the DOJ to fire 4,000 FBI agents and 1,500 DEA agents if applied across the board.
The Office of Management and Budget could also take the budget ax to the National Drug Intelligence Center reports the Wall Street Journal's Devlin Barrett. That center was championed by the late Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), but conservatives have long said is a waste of taxpayer money which hasn't provided the high-quality analysis of drug networks that it promised.
As reported last year, DEA's budget proposal for fiscal year 2011 noted that marijuana seizures had nearly doubled in fiscal year 2009. The budget request spoke dismissively about the benefits of medical marijuana.
"DEA does not investigate or target individual 'patients' who use cannabis, but instead the drug trafficking organizations involved in marijuana trafficking," the budget stated.
The MPP's Fox said it was a waste for the DEA to be expending resources raiding facilities in states where medical marijuana is legal. But he was someone encouraged by the fact that President Barack Obama told YouTube users that the legalization of some drugs was a "entirely legitimate topic for debate" -- even those Obama said he wasn't in favor of legalization.
- Article from Talking Points Memo.