DEA spends $18M in taxpayer money to destroy illegal marijuana grows

Capelli D'Angelo

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Last year the Drug Enforcement Administration’s cannabis eradication program spent $18 million to locate, seize and destroy illegal marijuana grow operations in the United States. Local and federal officers uprooted around 4.1 million marijuana plants, according to The Washington Post.

The majority of taxpayer funds allocated to this program are spent on aerial operations in attempt to spot outdoor grows from helicopters. When broken down, on average it costs the government $4.42 per plant searched for and destroyed. This figure has increased slightly from 2014 when the cost-per-plant was $4.20.


California Rep. Ted Lieu suggested the government redirect these funds to more useful programs by writing a bill to discontinue cannabis eradication efforts. This legislation was not passed, but Lieu claims he will continue to fight for a change in the tax allocation.

“Marijuana needs to be removed from Schedule I classification, and DEA should stop this wasteful program,” Lieu said. “It makes zero sense for the federal government to continue to spend taxpayer dollars on cannabis eradication at a time when states across the country are looking to legalize marijuana.”

The DEA is spending more money on the program in certain states, such as Washington. Official statistics for taxes spent in each state on cannabis eradication have not yet been released, but a DEA spokesman said close to 36,000 marijuana plants were destroyed in the state of Washington last year at a cost of $950,000. That works out to roughly $26 per plant.

Colorado and Alaska have opted out of receiving federal funding for a state cannabis eradication program. Instead, these states have implemented more cost efficient systems to search for illegal marijuana grows.

In some cases officers have not been properly trained and are wasting efforts to uproot legal plants that look similar to marijuana, such as okra. To learn more about tax allocation for the cannabis eradication program, check out the full article.

Collegian Green Report Blogger Capelli D’Angelo can be reached online at