March 6, 2014

The reason why government officials continue to vilify cannabis

Some argue police are unwilling to support cannabis legalization because they are too invested in cannabis policing through drug enforcement grants and revenue from seized houses, cars and property in cannabis prosecutions. After you read the below statistics and editorials, you tell me: What do you think?

FACT: The DEA’s 2013 budget was over $2 billion.

FACT: Federal authorities recently announced their 10th million-dollar cannabis bust in the last 13 months in Santa Cruz County.

FACT: California took in $181.4 million in revenue from seized property and money in marijuana cases from 2002 to 2012, followed by New York at $101.3 million.

Although, the Department of Justice’s annual report does not specify what percentage of its seizures were related to cannabis, it does report the total amount of money seized from illegal drug operations throughout the United States, which was a grand deposit of over two billion dollars. It seems a quarter of that two billion is due to seized assets from cannabis operation busts. Therefore, based on several reports, it is estimated that government agencies seized approximately $500 million from seizures involving cannabis operations (probably a lot more).

License to Steal! It’s hard to believe, but California Police Departments and the DEA are made up of human beings who rely on employment stability and certainty, just like the rest of us. So, logically, it makes sense for drug enforcement officers to impede the legalization of cannabis. Actually, they’ve gotten even smarter! Rather than waste government resources on prosecutions and legitimate investigations, California officers are increasingly following the Feds’ lead—they seize cannabis and money and don’t prosecute.

FACT: Suspected cannabis offenders lose their cars, cash, boats, land, business equipment and houses, but 80 percent of the individuals whose assets are seized related to a cannabis allegation are never charged with a crime.

Straight from a California Officer’s mouth: Arcata Police Department officer, Kevin Stonebarger, alleges in a sworn declaration that a sergeant promised an expensive office-wide celebration that year if the department’s Special Services Unit destroyed 10,000 cannabis plants and recovered $150,000 from people found to be growing cannabis illegally.

The Real World: In the last 13 months, my clients have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in product, plants and currency to California. The truth is, in some cases, (where there is no criminal case or where the state says they’ll dismiss it if the money is forfeited) I must advise clients to cut their losses and let the government keep the money.

Other times, of course, we are happy to stick it to the man and demand money and product back. In 2013, for example, we were able to recover over 100,000 for different clients and over 100 pounds in medical cannabis was returned

Unfair Medical Marijuana Law and Legislation is Pushed By The Government For Their Own Profit

Where does the money go? Just look above at the amount seized in 2013 (2 billion) and the budget for 2013 (2 billion). Striking similarity? Coincidence?

It is well documented that many of these agencies use their asset forfeiture funds for superfluous and unnecessary equipment or to take luxurious trips to different states for “training.”

I rest my case: Washington Police Department Suffers Budget Cuts. In recent history, we have seen an unprecedented result of marijuana legalization—as reported in The Wall Street Journal—police in Washington State are taking budget hits after cannabis was legalized. In fact, some police drug task forces lost 15 percent of funding due to decreased revenue from cannabis forfeiture cases.

Meital Manzuri is a Los Angeles-based criminal defense attorney, speaker and consultant for patients, collectives and dispensaries. She can be contacted via phone at (310) 601-3140 or online at

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Disclaimer: This article has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice.