Regulation of Marijuana Use by the DEA
The Drug Enforcement Agency is a federal law enforcement agency mandated with the task of fighting drug smuggling and use in the country. It is the premier agency in the country tasked with enforcing the Controlled Substances Act. The organization is also responsible for conducting U.S. drug inquiries and investigations in other countries.
The federal agency has divided drugs and other substances into five distinct schedules based on their potential for abuse and whether they are safe for medical use. Marijuana (cannabis) has been placed under Schedule I Substances alongside other controlled substances that include methylene-dimethoxy-methamphetamine (ecstasy), lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), heroin and peyote (Clark, Cauzzi & Fick, 2011).
This means that marijuana and the other drugs placed on the list should not be used in medical treatment as they have a high potential for abuse and are unsafe to be used even under medical supervision. However, the drugs can still be produced for research purposes if an FDA approved researcher is conducting the tests.
The DEA continues to refuse the rescheduling of cannabis despite overwhelming evidence that the drug can be used for medicinal purposes. 76% of doctors across the country have accepted the use of the drug to treat a number of illnesses including cancer and slowing down the growth of HIV/AIDS (Clark, Cauzzi & Fick, 2011; Kashyap & Kashyap, 2014).
Structure of the DEA
The Administrator of Drug Enforcement, an individual appointed directly by the President, leads the agency. He reports to the Attorney General via the Deputy Attorney General. There are several key positions under the Administrator of Drug Enforcement. These positions include the Deputy Administrator, the Chief Inspector, and the Chief of Operations. There are also three Assistant Administrators, the Operations Support Administrator, the Human Resource Administrator, and the Intelligence Administrator.
The Operations Division is divided into six major departments that include the Aviation division, office of operations management, special operations division, office of diversion control, office of global enforcement, and the office of financial operations. The Intelligence division is divided into the office of national security intelligence, office of strategic intelligence, office of special intelligence, El Paso Intelligence Center, and the OCDETF Fusion Center. The Human Resource Division has the following departments: career board, board of professional conduct and the office of training.
How HR affects Marijuana Use
The DEA does not hire individuals who have a history of drug abuse. The agency is meant to uphold the Controlled Substance Act, and thus cannot employ any individual who has previously abused drugs or is currently doing so. The agency is particularly strict on narcotics and other dangerous drugs that are not medically prescribed. Thorough investigations into the candidate’s background are conducted to determine if the candidate has ever abused drugs prior to his application for employment at the DEA. The only exception to this rule is if the candidate admits that he experimented with marijuana in his youth. If there is no evidence of regular usage of marijuana, then the candidate may be allowed to work for the DEA.
There have been several allegations that some of the DEA agents consume and sell some of the marijuana confiscated by the agency. According to Radbill (2015), a report was released that provided details on employee misconduct and how they were punished. Some of the offenses that a number of employees had committed included sexual harassment, driving under the influence, as well as failing drug tests. It was also noted that those who had failed the drug tests were only suspended for five days! The worry for the public is that the DEA may be confiscating marijuana and other drugs, only to redistribute them or even consume them.
Budgetary Issues when it comes to Marijuana regulation
It has been noted that the organization tends to spend a huge chunk of its budget on restricting the cultivation, sale, and distribution of marijuana. Many critics believe that the organization only does so because the marijuana trade is very lucrative. The organization seizes a huge amount of money that is often unaccounted for.
Challenges of Political Responsiveness
Critics have argued that the DEA puts highly restrictive schedules on marijuana because of political pressure. This political pressure stems from the government’s highly publicized and controversial war on drugs that began in 1971.
The organization, however, contends that there is no political pressure forcing it to keep marijuana in the most restrictive category. Under the CSA, the Department of Health and Human Services is the body responsible for scheduling the drugs and not the DEA. Therefore, when the DHHS reschedules marijuana so shall DEA. The organization has also commented that the only reason the drug is not being rescheduled is that it lacks a clear and definitive medical use for it. It might be less harmful than heroin but there are no medical benefits to be accrued from the drug (O’Connell, 2015).
The DEA has also been criticized for protecting the federal government’s monopoly on marijuana for research. Since 1968, the National Institute of Mental Health has been the only body allowed to produce marijuana for FDA approved research. The monopoly was transferred to the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 1974. All other Schedule I drugs are manufactured by a number of FDA approved private entities for research purposes (Drug Policy Alliance, 2014).
Clark, P., Capuzzi, K., & Fick, C. (2011). Medical Marijuana: medical necessity versus political agenda. Med Sci Monit, 17 (12), RA249-RA261.
Drug Policy Alliance (2014). The DEA: Four decades of impeding and rejecting science. Available online < https://www.drugpolicy.org/sites/default/files/DPA-MAPS_DEA_Science_Final.pdf> Accessed on 30/10/2015
Kashyap, S., & Kashyap, K. (2014). Medical marijuana: a pancea or a scourge. Lung India, 31(2):145-148.
O’Connell, K. (2015, Sep 21). DEA chief admits marijuana is less dangerous than heroin, but will not reschedule. MintPress News. Retrieved on 30/10/2015 from http://www.mintpressnews.com/dea-chief-admits-marijuana-is-less-dangerous-than-heroin-but-wont-reschedule/209699/
Radbill, L. (2015, Oct 14). DEA employees fail drug tests, still allowed to terrorize marijuana users. The Stoner’s Cookbook. Retrieved on 30/10/2015 from http://www.thestonerscookbook.com/article/2015/10/14/dea-employees-fail-drug-tests-still-allowed-to-terrorize-marijuana-users/
Drug Questionnaire http://www.dea.gov/careers/drug_questionnaire.pdf