CannaCrime: DEA’s cannabis-eradication program declines in Maryland and nationwide

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Feb. 1, 2019

In light of the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office just-filed lawsuit against itself for prosecuting pot-possession cases, and our post this week indicating that the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office currently has no active marijuana case (save a recent decade-long fugitive), FSC was curious as to how federal law enforcers have been carrying out their cannabis-prohibition policies in Maryland. So FSC visited the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) cannabis-eradication page to catch up on its Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program (DCE/SP).

“The DEA is aggressively striving to halt the spread of cannabis cultivation in the United States,” the page explains, so DCE/SP allocates money to state and local law-enforcers for going after “Drug Trafficking Organizations” that are “involved in cannabis cultivation.” The federal funding “allows the enhancement of already aggressive eradication enforcement activities throughout the nation,” the page continues, including going after cultivators who are “growing outdoor cannabis under the cover of various states’ legal cannabis grows.”

“Despite cultivator efforts,” the page proclaims, “the DEA and the cooperating DCE/SP agencies continue to identify and eliminate cannabis grow sites throughout the United States.”

What’s not explained on the DCE/SP page is the dramatic drop in eradication in 2017 compared to the five-year average of 2011 to 2016. The links to the program’s annual data tables allow visitors to do their own math.

Nationwide, 2017 saw a 50-percent drop from the five-year average of weapons seized as a result of cannabis-eradication efforts; a 45-percent drop in indoor grow-site eradication; a 42-percent drop in outdoor grow-site eradication; a 42-percent drop in the dollar-value of assets seized; and a 22-percent drop in arrests.

Maryland’s cannabis-eradication numbers in 2017 compared to the five-year average from 2011 to 2016 show similar declines: a 63-percent drop in indoor grow-site eradication; a 50-percent drop in arrests; a 25-percent drop in assets seized; and a 28-percent drop in the total number of cultivated plants seized. The number of weapons seized in 2017 in Maryland in connection with cannabis-eradication efforts – 120 – was essentially the same as the five-year average of 124.

The number of pounds of bulk processed cannabis seized in 2017 in Maryland – the stuff ready for market – essentially equaled the five-year average of 86 pounds. Nationally, though, 2017’s 151,444 pounds of bulk processed cannabis seized is the highest in the 2011-2017 period, and is 24 percent more than the five-year average.

The national rise in bulk processed cannabis seized under the eradication program is understandable, given large-scale enforcement efforts such as a recent one in California, where tribal lands were being used by cartel growers, often against landowners’ wishes, to undertake industrial-sized, environmentally damaging production operations. Seized were 5,200 plants – and 500 pounds of bulk processed pot.

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