Jun 042015
 June 4, 2015

dea kids children medical marijuanaBy Phillip Smith

In a series of votes yesterday, the House voted to end the DEA’s controversial bulk data collection program and also passed three amendments cutting funding from the DEA and shifting it to other federal law enforcement priorities. In more votes today, it approved three amendments aimed at blocking DEA and Justice Department interference with industrial hemp, CBD cannabis oil, and medical marijuana in states where they are legal. A fourth amendment that would have barred interference in legal marijuana states was narrowly defeated.

The votes came as the House considers the FY 2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill.

Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), David Schweikert (R-AZ), and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) offered the amendment barring the DEA and the Justice Department from using taxpayer funds to do bulk collection of Americans’ communications records. It passed on a voice vote yesterday.

“Congress dealt a major blow to the DEA by ending their invasive and offensive bulk data collection programs and by cutting their budget, said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “The more the DEA ignores commonsense drug policy, the more they will see their agency’s power and budget come under deeper scrutiny.”

Last night, members voted to slash $23 million from the DEA’s budget and reallocate the money for most cost-effective programs. One amendment, from Rep. Ted Liew (D-CA) shifted $9 million from the agency’s marijuana eradication program to youth programs; another, from Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) cut $4 million from the DEA budget for rape test kits; while the third, from Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) shifted $9 million from the DEA to a program to try to reduce police abuse by procuring body cameras for police officers.

In today’s votes, an amendment offered by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Reid Ribble (R-WI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Joe Heck (R-NV), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Don Young (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Tom McClintock (R-CA), and Dina Titus (D-NV) would bar the DEA and Justice from interfering in medical marijuana states. It passed 242-186. Similar legislation passed Congress last year, but was set to expire.

The House also passed an amendment from Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) to protect state laws allowing for the use of CBD cannabis oil. It passed 297-130. A third amendment, from Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Thomas Massie (R-KY), to protect state laws allowing industrial hemp also passed on a vote of 282-146.

But the most far-reaching amendment, which would have barred federal interference in states where marijuana is legal for either medical or general purposes, failed on a vote of 206-222. It was sponsored by Reps. Tom McClintock (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Don Young (R-AK), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

“Votes in support of rolling back the federal government’s war on medical marijuana are beginning to become routine. Last year, passing this amendment was unprecedented. This year, it was predictable. Medical marijuana has gone from ‘controversial’ to ‘conventional’ on Capitol Hill,” said Dan Riffle, director of federal policy for the Marijuana Policy Project.

But this is just the start, Riffle said.

“This is an important amendment because it addresses the tension between state and federal marijuana law,” he noted. “We welcome it as a temporary fix, but what we really need is a comprehensive and more permanent solution. It’s time for Congress to pass legislation that ends prohibition at the federal level and allows states to determine their own marijuana policies.”

Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority was singing the same tune.

“Now that the House has gone on record with strong bipartisan votes for two years in a row to oppose using federal funds to interfere with state medical marijuana laws, it’s time for Congress to take up comprehensive legislation to actually change federal law,” he said. “That’s what a growing majority of Americans wants, and these votes show that lawmakers are on board as well. Congress clearly wants to stop the Justice Department from spending money to impose failed marijuana prohibition policies onto states, so there’s absolutely no reason those policies themselves should remain on the law books any longer.”

“There’s unprecedented support on both sides of the aisle for ending the federal war on marijuana and letting states set their own drug policies based on science, compassion, health, and human rights,” said DPA’s Piper.

Despite the narrow failure of that last amendment, the votes are just the latest indicator of rising congressional dissatisfaction with the scandal-plagued agency. Former Administrator Michele Leonhart was forced to resign earlier this year after a disastrous performance before congressional overseers over the agency’s latest scandal, which involved DEA agents using taxpayer (and sometimes, drug baron) funds to consort with prostitutes in Colombia.

But the agency’s problems with Congress go deeper than mere scandals—of which there are plenty—and reflect rising congressional concern that the DEA is not only ineffective, but downright obstinate, especially when it comes to marijuana policy. Leonhart herself epitomized the culture problem in the DEA when she was unable to bring herself to admit to Congress last year that marijuana is less dangerous than heroin.

The House has now shown it isn’t very keen on the DEA’s mass surveillance programs, either. Knowledge of their extent first appeared with a Reuters expose in 2013 that outlined collaboration between the DEA, NSA, CIA and other agencies to spy on Americans in the name of the drug war, including the creation of false investigative trails to disguise the fact they were getting information from secret surveillance programs. Then, this April, USA Today reported that the DEA and Justice Department have been keeping secret records of billions of international phone calls made by Americans for decades. The program, the first known US effort to gather bulk data on citizens, regardless of whether or not they were suspected of committing a crime, was the precursor of the post-9/11 spying programs.

“The DEA built the modern surveillance state,” said Piper. “From spying on Americans to busting into people’s homes the DEA doesn’t fit in well in a free society and the time is now to reverse these harms.”

DPA recently released a new report, The Scandal-Ridden DEA: Everything You Need to Know. The report and a comprehensive set of background resources about the campaign to rein in the DEA are available at www.drugpolicy.org/DEA.

“The DEA is a large, expensive, scandal-prone bureaucracy that has failed to reduce drug-related problems,” said Piper. “There’s a bipartisan consensus that drug use should be treated as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue; with states legalizing marijuana and adopting other drug policy reforms it is time to ask if the agency is even needed anymore.”

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  9 Responses to “United States House Moves To Rein In DEA”

  1.  

    Tear down the WALL!

    – Pink Floyd’s The Wall

  2.  

    Between the war on drugs, and the war on terrorism, we’ve turned America into a police state with law enforcement functioning like an occupying army. Probable cause, and reasonable suspicion, have become unnecessary requirements for searches of people and property. Police routinely stop motorists, and pedestrians to search them for drugs, and weapons. Federal agents monitor our phone and Internet traffic. And we incarcerate our citizens at a higher rate than even China, and Iran. This is not the America our founding fathers created, this is not freedom.

  3.  

    @disqus_eGOISHJbzP:disqus while I echo your sentiment that our own government has gotten way out of hand, I think we also have to be honest that in the situation like the phone monitoring thing has been blown out of proportion a bit..(not in regards to it happening in the Drug War by the DEA, they took it to a whole new level.)

    I’m speaking to the monitoring that was intended to keep tabs on terrorist activity, which I’ve read was simply meta data. How I understood it was, all they can see is the two numbers that talked to each other, when the calls took place and where the numbers originated. That’s it, nothing of the subject or content of the conversations. Then based on the meta data, they still had to go get a warrant to further investigate the calls at that point.

    I am by no means defending our governemnt becasue I think it’s a big overblown bloated piece of crap that is long over due for a serious hair cut!! With that being said I think we also have to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge that the terrorist we are dealing with are very technologically savvy and simply sending boots on the ground to try to fight them is not going to work..they are not a uniformed army we are dealing with like in the past, ie WW1 WW2, we have to use a technological advantage where it exists, and simply looking at the phone numbers, time of call and where the two number originated can and could provide some context for suspicious activity…

    Ask yourself this…if you had access to this meta data and you see two numbers that repeatidly calle deach other from the US to let’s say Iraq…at what point would you say it would be fair to have that raise some red flags?? Also if sy we saw that did nothing about it, and it turns out that one or both people on the ends of that phone call went on to commit an act of terrorism..who are we to look to to ask, “why was more not done to stop it??””

    Again let me sate in no uncertain terms I think the government has waaaayyy overreached their bounds of privacy and due process, especially in regards to the War on Drugs!!, but at the same time, we have to admit we got caught with our proverbial pants down on 9/11, you have to think we should exspect our government to do something, anything to try to increase their ability to try to prevent another attack, right?? The question is, what are we prepared to allow as citizens??

  4.  

    Kevin Sabet needs to find a new line of work. I recommend Taco Bell! =P

    •  

      He’s apparently had too many enchilada’s already. However, the cannabis industry is booming; maybe he could do penance by working in a medical cannabis dispensary.

  5.  

    Thank you Rand Paul for getting the ball rolling re:data collection.

  6.  

    Note: “Parallel construction” was widely used in WW2 to hide the fact that we had broken the German Enigma codes. To absolutely stop the worst excesses we have to end the WOD. And little by little we are ending it. My Cong Critter, Adam Kinzinger (R) Illinois, who was at one time favorably disposed to the WOD voted for medical cannabis in the House.

    •  

      It is one thing to use parallel construction to confuse an enemy that is sinking your ships and bombing your allies (and whose allies have bombed you!) but it is quite another to use it to cover up illegal investigation techniques. The DEA has effectively undermined our criminal justice system and any convictions based on DEA-supplied evidence are now in question. Ironically, despite the fact the DEA agents were engaged in this big lie it remains a felony for you to lie to them.

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