Last week, interim DEA director Chuck Rosenburg essentially called medicinal marijuana "a joke." Given the many, many, many, many studies verifying marijuana's medicinal properties, it seems a little bizarre that the director of a drug enforcement agency would make such an erroneous statement.
Many people have speculated that his statement was a desperate attempt to protect his job considering the fact that marijuana reform has been sweeping the nation. Perhaps Rosenburg fears that his department will soon become irrelevant. Or maybe he realizes that it already has.
You might be thinking, "Well, the DEA doesn't just regulate marijuana. They also regulate more dangerous drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine."
Do they, though?
Earlier this year, the Justice Department released a damning report claiming DEA agents had attended sex parties abroad with prostitutes hired by local drug cartels. Former DEA director Michele Leonhart resigned over the scandal, which is how Rosenburg got the interim position in the first place.
The DEA hasn't done much better domestically, either. The "war on drugs" has been deemed a failure many times over; it costs us approximately $51,000,000,000 a year and is the reason 1.5 million people have been arrested annually for nonviolent drug charges. And we certainly shouldn't forget the countless deaths of innocent people because of botched drug busts.
There must be a better way.
Many anti-drug war advocates (myself included) believe that the optimal solution is to legalize all illicit drugs including heroin and crack cocaine. Americans spend an estimated $100 billion a year on illegal drugs, most of which ends up funding vicious drug cartels and terrorist organizations (and sex parties for DEA agents, apparently). If drugs were legalized and regulated, that money could go towards funding more drug rehabilitation centers and creating more anti-drug educational programs.
Additionally, it could help keep kids off of drugs. Right now, there is no real incentive (morality aside) for drug dealers not to sell to kids. If drugs were to be regulated, we could actually enforce age restrictions for drug usage, and it would be easier to create substantial consequences for selling drugs to children.
Most importantly, we would confidently be able to dismantle the DEA.
Of course, many people are hesitant to completely legalize drugs since heroin and crack are undoubtedly dangerous and have destroyed the lives of many people. Just about everyone, including those that advocate for drug legalization, agrees that drug addiction is a serious and tragic issue. Ending prohibition is simply the best of a bad situation.
Even though drugs are illegal now, millions of Americans are still struggling with drug addiction, and many of them cannot afford the treatment they need. If these drugs were being regulated and taxed, not only would it increase the chances of addicts surviving long enough to make it to treatment (since they wouldn't be engaging with dangerous drug dealers and purchasing potentially tainted product), but the money they have spent on drugs could be going towards their rehabilitation.
There is also a fear that addiction and drug usage will increase in general if these substances become more accessible. However, the fact that these drugs are currently not easily accessible has encouraged the rise of much more dangerous substances known as "designer drugs," synthetic alternatives to more popular illicit substances, which have the added benefit of being legal (until enough people die from overdosing on them, at which point the "designers" slightly change the formula to make it legal again).
Regardless of how you might feel about drug legalization, it is clear that the DEA has done more damage than good when it comes to drug use in the United States. From the rise of toxic designer drugs to the billions of dollars wasted fighting on the "war on drugs" to the innocent lives lost because of their carelessness, it is time to cut our losses and shut down the DEA.
Every year, Republicans promise to defund government programs to save the taxpayers money. Why not the DEA?
With the money saved from closing the DEA and the potential $46.7 billion that could be earned by legalizing and taxing currently-illegal drugs, Senator Bernie Sanders would have more than enough money for his plan to eliminate undergraduate tuition at public universities.
Rosenburg's comment on medicinal marijuana highlights just how out of touch and desperate his department has become. It's about time that we close the DEA and open our country to a brighter future.
Edited: An earlier version of this post cited a source that incorrectly claimed Americans spend an estimated $65 million a year on illegal drugs instead of $100 billion.