Why Didn't the Shutdown Cut Funding for the DEA? It's One of the Least 'Essential' Govt. Agencies

The DEA is a failed institution.

The GOP House's temper-tantrum-induced shutdown of the U.S. government can be called many things—an extortion, a frustration, an outrage... name your unflattering descriptor. But if it does anything of use for the American people, it serves up an inarguable indication of the government’s true priorities. It shows us, verbatim, which programs are deemed “essential” and which aren't.  

For instance, the national parks and almost a million federal employees have been cutoff, while the military continues to operate full-force.

And while the injustices of the shutdown are many, among the most hypocritical government priorities is the continued funding of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)—an organization focused on ending the war on drugs—sent an email to supporters on Friday asking why the DEA was considered essential during the government shutdown.

“You and I both know the DEA isn’t effective,” he wrote. “So why is it considered essential?”

A very good question considering the fact that, even if fighting the war on drugs was reasonable priority to maintain during a shutdown (it isn't) the DEA has long since lost the war. Since its inception in 1973, it has failed to reduce the number of drug-related crimes in the U.S., and continues to place more than 1.2 million people behind bars each year for the mere possession of illegal substances.

As a report last week by the British Medical Journal Opendeclared, the war on drugs has failed—not just in America but around the globe. The report shows how, despite decades of 'war on drugs' efforts, the potency of illegal drugs has increased, prices have dropped, and the number of users is on the rise. 

Even U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder appears to be humming a tune contrary to that of the drug war, as he announced in August the Department of Justice will stay out of the way when it comes to the state-regulated legalization of marijuana. 

The DPA’s email called for supporters to sign a petition urging Congress to defund the DEA once and for all.

“The DEA is one of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of marijuana law reform and ending the drug war,” the email notes. “It blatantly lies about marijuana and other drugs while blocking and ignoring scientific research. It relies on dishonesty and scare tactics to promote its vested interests. It undermines the will of voters in medical marijuana states with militarized raids that have resulted in the deaths of innocent people. And it’s been secretly using NSA and CIA programs to spy on virtually all Americans.”

April M. Short is a yoga teacher and writer who previously worked as AlterNet's drugs and health editor. She currently edits part-time for AlterNet, and freelances for a number of publications nationwide.

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