Though last November’s elections brought on a tsunami of marijuana legalization, new data from the Drug Enforcement Administration shows that the agency actually increased its cannabis seizures by 20% in 2016.
According to the DEA’s annual Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Statistical Report, the agency confiscated 5.3 million plants last year, the most in any year since 2011. 93% of these came from outdoor grow operations.
Asset forfeitures claimed by the government during cannabis investigations also rose a whopping 75% in 2016 to $51,937,207.01, from $29,705,902.43 the previous year.
Most of this seizing went down in California, according to a blog post by As NORML Deputy Director Paul Armanto. 3.77 million plants were seized in the state, composing 71% of all plants seized nationwide. This also marks a major bump over the 2.64 million plants seized in the Golden State last year.
Keep in mind this huge spike in cannabis seizures came in 2016, before Donald Trump’s administration entered the White House and Jeff “Good People Don’t Smoke Marijuana” Sessions took over the Justice Department.
This 20% overall increase in marijuana seizures came under President Barack Obama and under the guidelines of the Cole Memorandum, which expressly told the DEA not to spend money or resources on state-licensed cannabis operations.
The Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program has come under fire before. In 2014, the effort took an annual budget of $18 million, though lawmakers that year co-authored a letter contending that the program should be partially defunded on the basis that “historical data indicates that the vast majority of plants seized under this program are wild plants descendant from industrial hemp.”
In other words, most of the plants seized were actually ditchweed. “They are not intentionally grown, and they are not suitable for recreational or medical use,” the letter read. “Therefore, the seizure of these plants has served neither an economic nor public-safety nor a health-related purpose. Its sole impact has been to expend limited federal resources that are better spent elsewhere.”
Despite that assertion, the DCES actually ramped up its efforts two consecutive years, ratcheting up from seizing only 4.3 million plants in 2014. The program also implemented an effort that same year to give local police military training to bust cannabis growers.
Photo by Flickr user Martjin