Cannabis News

Federal and state approaches to cannabis: Recent DEA data shows increased enforcement as states move toward decriminalization and legalization

You would think that the recent increase in the legalization of recreational marijuana use would correlate with a drop in leafy green-related arrests and seizures. According to recent data from the Drug Enforcement Administration, however, in 2021, federal law enforcement officers seized more than 5.5 million marijuana plants and made more than 6,600 marijuana-related arrests. This is 20% more seizures and 25% more arrests than those made the previous year. Indeed, the DEA reports that it is “aggressively working to stop the spread of cannabis cultivation in the United States,” including through its Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program (DCE/SP). , which began funding eradication programs in 1979 and has approximately 126 participants from state and local law enforcement agencies.

These numbers may be surprising given that more than 60% of Americans support global legalization of marijuana, which is the highest percentage of support ever reported in a national science poll, according to the latest Gallup poll.

This ideological gap between the federal government and the state governments may be the result of several determining factors. For example, among the various reasons that states are increasingly leaning towards legalizing the use of marijuana is the financial prosperity it brings to state economies. In 2020 alone, legal marijuana sales in the United States brought in a record $17.5 billion, with states like Colorado and Oregon bringing in over $2.2 billion and $1.1 billion, respectively. , according to a recent Forbes Article. Separately, from a social perspective, in 2021, 49% of adults have tried marijuana in the United States, or about 162,678,600 Americans. By comparison, according to a Gallup poll, in 1971, only 4% of Americans tried it. Thus, adults appear to be consuming marijuana at much higher rates than ever before. Finally, some states argue that legalization resolves the impact on African Americans, who are statistically more likely to be arrested and incarcerated for marijuana use than Caucasians, which in turn results in higher incarceration rates. and resources used, which in turn is a drain on taxpayers. .

At the federal level, however, enforcement efforts persist. The history of the law surrounding this topic may offer some insight. In the early 20th century, marijuana was strictly regulated by the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. It was not until 1970 that marijuana became a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. At the time, lawmakers thought marijuana had a high potential for abuse and lacked effective medical use. Therefore, the law prohibited the very use of medical marijuana. It wasn’t until 2014, when the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment was passed, effectively prohibiting the federal government from interfering with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws, that states were able to regulate the medical use of marijuana. Nevertheless, federal law and enforcement policy remained the same.

The complexity of marijuana legality and regulation creates a great deal of ambiguity and confusion for employers regarding hiring standards, applicable safety standards, and policies surrounding the use of employees. The rapid and significant changes among state governments and the concurrent increase in enforcement at the federal level puts employers in the middle with a growing need to stay current with applicable laws and regulations.

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