Federal Marijuana Eradication Efforts and Their Influence on Marijuana Cultivation.
A cost/benefit analysis of law enforcement resources applied to enforcing laws related to marijuana’s schedule I status must include a review of the DEA Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program. DEA and other government reports suggest that domestic marijuana cultivation can neither be eradicated nor suppressed.
The DEA has misrepresented the significance of the number of cannabis plants they have eradicated, the potency and profit potential for the average marijuana plant, the effect of their program on the price of marijuana, and the extent of their success in affecting the availability of marijuana.(32)
The DEA has claimed that their program has substantially increased the price of marijuana over the years, when actually most of the increases are attributable to inflation.
Throughout this time period the DEA’s actions have encouraged more decentralized cultivation, with fewer plants grown on increasingly more plots. The DEA’s actions have also led to a tremendous growth in the number of people who grow marijuana indoors, under lights.
The DEA has not been content to let state police and courts handle marijuana cultivation problems, and has given federalizing marijuana cultivation prosecutions and investigations a great amount of consideration.
The DEA claims about the seriousness of the marijuana problem have been used to involve the National Guard and the military in eradication efforts. The National Guard is quite straight-forward about how the law allows them to get around historical traditions and laws which keep the military out of domestic law enforcement.
Throughout this period the DEA constructed their own annual estimates of marijuana production in the United States based on assumptions of plant quality, yield per plant, and seizure success estimates.
Marijuana remains the nation’s number one cash crop. Throughout the last eleven years the DEA has not been able to reduce the value, and therefore the market incentive to grow, marijuana. In fact, the DEA has often stated that rising prices for marijuana is a sign their program is working.
The DEA’s war against domestic marijuana cultivation is a failure. Domestic cultivators have increased, proliferated and prospered since the program’s inception.
In 1982, the DEA made this startling discovery: The strategic intelligence estimate for 1981 domestic marihuana production was 1200 metric tons. Therefore, the program shows that:
“in 1982, 38% more domestic marihuana was eradicated than was previously believed to exist. Although a total U.S. marihuana production figure is not easily determined, the statistics obtained from this program reveal, without doubt, that the United States is becoming a major source for the drug.”(33)
By their own standards, the program is a dismal failure.
In 1982 the goal of the eradication program strategy was:
“to deter both commercial sinsemilla or high grade marihuana cultivation and to suppress the proliferation of that cultivation in areas which have not yet developed a large or sophisticated growing or marketing capability.”(34)
DEA documents show that marijuana cultivation, in fact, proliferated widely throughout the United States, often in response to the DEA’s program itself. For example, compare the statement above with this statement from 1992:
“Domestically grown marijuana accounted for 10% of all marijuana in 1980 this has increased to 25% in 1992, with a production estimate of 4500 – 5300 metric tons.”(35)
By the DEA’s own estimates, domestic marijuana production has increased four-fold between 1982 and 1992.
And this from 1990:
“A large measure of the U.S. marijuana market will be captured by domestic growers, individual entrepreneurs and well-organized, multi-state cooperatives. Sinsemilla . . . will dominate the domestic market. Indoor and public land cultivation are the most common methods of cannabis production. Domestic cultivation may account for as much as 50% of the U.S. market by 1995.”(36)