Is the DEA a rogue agency?

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a plan Thursday that will bar federal agencies from spending money to enforce anti-hemp laws in states that have legalized the plant. This comes after the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seized 250 pounds of hemp seeds — originating in Italy — on the way to Kentucky, even after the state legislature and the Farm Bill permitted their safe passage for industrial use.

The overstep has prompted many to wonder what the DEA is thinking–and whether it’s an agency gone rogue.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) humorously ate a hemp seed bar on live television two weeks ago to make light of the head-scratching situation.

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Rep. Thomas Massie eats hemp seeds on live TV — and lives! 

“It’s ridiculous, if hemp is not being grown in the United States, how are we going to grow it without seeds?” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) said then. “You can buy a granola bar – in whichever city you’re in – with hemp seeds on it. Everything made of hemp is legal to bring into this country.”

Massie backed the lawsuit that resulted in the DEA standing down and Kentucky moving forward with hemp growing.

DEA stands down, Kentucky to move forward on hemp planting 

“Get out of Kentucky, let us grow our hemp, you should be at the borders,” Massie continued, addressing the DEA. “You know, probably a couple tons of heroin and cocaine came across the borders while you were infatuated with our 250 pounds of hemp seeds.”

Speaking of Mexico and DEA involvement therein, VICE News interviewed former federal agent Terry Nelson a month ago and he believes that the DEA doesn’t want the drug war to end.

“The DEA doesn’t want the drug war to end,” he said. “If it ends, they don’t get their toys and their budgets. Once it ends, they aren’t going to have the kind of influence in foreign government. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but where there’s smoke there’s probably fire.”

Nelson makes a simple point: The DEA literally exists to enforce and that’s what it’s going to do. To exist, the DEA also depends on drugs being designated illegal, so when it begins losing things to enforce, does it get antsy?

Craig Lee, a board member of the Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association in Lexington, said that the hemp industry is a potential economic boon for his state, especially since the war on tobacco continues to hurt that industry.

Republican Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell seconded that in a statement. “These legal pilot programs authorized by my legislation could help boost our state’s economy and lead to future jobs,” he said.

Lee also said that he didn’t understand why the DEA agents decided to block hemp’s use, which thrived in the state decades ago — thoughts Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mi.) echoed on his Facebook page.

“Despite existing law, the DEA recently seized hemp seeds intended for Kentucky’s industrial hemp research pilot program. Kentucky has sued to get them back,” Amash wrote. “It is ridiculous that Congress has to pass a new law to force federal agencies to obey the old law, yet here we are.”

The DEA has truly incited the ire of Kentuckians, one of whom would rather that the agency just disappear altogether.

“We need to stop the DEA,” Craig Lee said directly. “That organization needs to be taken down at the knees and disbanded. Get totally rid of it and throw it in the grave with Richard Nixon.” So tell us how you really feel, Mr. Lee.

Eric Steenstra, executive director of the Hemp Industries Association, a trade group that represents hundreds of hemp businesses, also had some choice words. “DEA is a bit of a lost rogue agency. They just don’t get it,” he said. “They’ve been continuing to sort of have a hard time accepting the new reality.”

The DEA lists among its primary responsibilities: “Coordination and cooperation with federal, state, and local agencies, and with foreign governments, in programs designed to reduce the availability of illicit abuse-type drugs on the United States market through nonenforcement methods such as crop eradication, crop substitution, and training of foreign officials.”

What’s transpired in Kentucky illustrates quite the opposite: No coordination or cooperation with the federal government or the state of Kentucky and reducing the availability of licit non-abuse substances through enforcement methods such as confiscation.

The DEA doesn’t even know itself! Hemp is a non-psychoactive relative of marijuana.


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