Lawmakers push to cut DEA funding & shift to preventing child abuse

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The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is in hot water on Capitol Hill on a number of fronts.

Late last week, for example, a bipartisan group of lawmakers called on President Obama to fire Chuck Rosenberg, the agency’s acting administrator, after he called medical marijuana a “joke.”

And now a group of 12 House members is pushing to take money away from DEA’s efforts to eradicate marijuana plants and devote the savings to programs aimed at preventing child abuse and violence against women.

“The Cannabis Eradication Program’s sole mission is to eradicate marijuana plants and arrest growers. However, historical data indicates that the vast majority of plants seized under this program are wild plants descendant from industrial hemp,” the lawmakers, led by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), wrote in a letter to House Republican and Democratic leaders. “There is no justification for spending this kind of money on an antiquated program never shown to be effective.”

The letter urges Congressional leadership to include the substance of an amendment that Lieu sponsored, which passed the House on a voice vote in June, in the final Fiscal Year 2016 spending package that appropriators from both chambers are now negotiating. The Lieu proposal was one of a series of amendments adopted by the House that, in total, cut $23 million from DEA’s budget and shifted the funds to things like solving the rape kit testing backlog, helping child abuse victims and paying for police body cameras.

Including Lieu’s $9 million shift from DEA would be an “important and needed step forward to cut waste from our federal budget and focus our limited resources on programs [that]have proven to be effective at preventing violence, assisting children who have victimized, and promoting public health,” the lawmakers wrote.

Besides Lieu, other members signing the letter are Reps. Jared Polis (CO), Earl Blumenauer (OR), Steve Cohen (TN), Eric Swalwell (CA), Mark Pocan (WI), Mike Honda (CA), Barbara Lee (CA), Jan Schakowsky (IL(, Raúl Grijalva (AZ), Beto O’Rourke (TX) and Sam Farr (CA). All are Democrats.

Current funding for the federal government runs out on December 11, and leaders from both chambers of Congress are working to finalize a spending package that can earn enough votes to pass before that date.

Alex PersonComment