Despite the Biden administration’s promises to decriminalize cannabis, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has ramped up arrests. In 2021, we saw the first increase in arrests in over a decade — a frightening omen for cannabis enthusiasts and activists.
The Terrifying Numbers
According to the DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program’s annual report, the organization detained over 6,600 people for cannabis-related offenses last year and seized more than 5.5 million marijuana plants.
With an increase of about one million plants and more than a thousand arrests, that is a significant step up in enforcement from 2020. When put into perspective, that represents a 32 percent increase in the number of people handcuffed and a 22 percent increase in plants destroyed over the course of a year. The DEA reported that it captured 743,920 pounds of bulk processed marijuana last year, up from 265,196 pounds in 2020. That’s almost triple the amount year-over-year.
Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, a cannabis activism group, wrote in a blog post, that “at a time when the overwhelming majority of voters support legalization, and when more and more states—and even members of Congress—are moving toward this direction, it is troubling to see federal agents and their local partners reversing course and reinvigorating their marijuana-related enforcement activities…”
The DEA Is Out Of Line With Other Congressional Bodies And Policies
The Congressional Research Service stated in recent research that the growth of legal cannabis states domestically, together with international reform initiatives, has decreased the demand for illegal marijuana coming from Mexico.
According to a U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) estimate published in June, 2021, federal marijuana trafficking charges will continue to decrease in 2020 as more states move toward legalization.
Per a year-end report issued by Chief Justice John Roberts of the Supreme Court in December, federal prosecutions of drug-related crimes overall surged in 2019, but instances involving marijuana decreased by more than a quarter.
As more states embrace reform, the number of cannabis arrests at the municipal and state level has significantly decreased, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program. However, experts have questioned the accuracy of FBI statistics based on claims that reporting criteria are unclear among law enforcement organizations.
Morgan Fox, political director of NORML, says:
“The solutions to this situation are beyond obvious at this point, and they don’t involve law enforcement officers putting themselves at risk by dropping out of helicopters or conducting armed raids. It is incumbent on policymakers to pursue evidenced-based, market-oriented, and justice-focused policies to minimize unregulated cannabis activity, and they’ve never had a better opportunity to do so.”
The DEA, however, seems to believe that cannabis is still a threat to the United States. As part of the initiative, federal investigators and their local partners reported seizing $103 million in assets in 2021, which is more than double the amount taken in 2020. Along with seizures of edibles enriched with marijuana, the report for the first time also detailed seizures of processed marijuana products, such as THC oils and wax.
The majority of plant seizures (86%) and arrests (60%) nationwide, like in previous years, occurred in California. Additionally, law enforcement reported seizing a significant amount of cultivated plants in Kentucky (317,621) and Oklahoma (158,124).
The DEA is being ridiculous and rigid – not only have they attempted to crack down on CBD products, Delta-8, and Delta-9 THC, but they’ve chosen to blatantly ignore federal precedent and continue to make an obscene number of arrests. There’s little doubt that this is motivated by profits – private prisons throughout the US can sue states for not providing enough prisoners, so it wouldn’t be too big of a stretch to assume a connection exists between the rampant cannabis arrests and the popularity of for-profit prisons.
If the DEA is acting like this under a Democratic administration, there’s little hope for positive changes in cannabis law in the future. Hopefully, the Biden administration will decriminalize marijuana — but hope has only taken us so far.
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