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Tax Dollars Used for Ill-Conceived DEA Push

Aurora Sentinel, Editorial, 30th August 2006

It's hardly news that Drug Enforcement Agency officials are opposed to a Colorado ballot initiative seeking to make it legal for adults to possess small amounts of marijuana.

It certainly is news, however, when DEA agents admit to spending staff time, paid for by taxpayer dollars, fighting that ballot measure or any other. The Daily Camera reported Aug. 27 that DEA agent Michael Moore sent out e-mails to political consultants looking for someone to advise the federal agency how to set up a campaign against the amendment.

The issue comes before voters in November and seeks to allow state residents over 21 to keep up to 1 ounce of marijuana.

The wisdom of such a change in drug laws is certainly debatable. American learned hard lessons during Prohibition, mostly that it neither kept people from drinking nor persuade Americans to shun alcohol.

Clearly, for all the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on fighting the so-called War on Drugs, illegal drug use seems as dangerous and pervasive as ever.

It's unclear whether decriminalization of drugs such as marijuana would have any effect on American drug use or drug sales, but it's hard to argue that there's much of a black market for alcohol these days.

There are many unanswered questions from this proposal that the media and voters will certainly look to the DEA to for answers. Rest assured anything the DEA says about the issue will be big news, freely disseminated as their side of the story. But any opinions from the DEA are just that.

It's a given that drug-agency officials will be releasing only information that supports their position that legalizing even small amounts of marijuana would be bad for Coloradans. It could be that there would be a need for fewer DEA agents. That means current DEA would be spending time on the job paid for by taxpayers to lobby voters to keep them employed. That's wrong. Certainly DEA agents, like all Americans, enjoy the right of free speech. But here in Colorado, we've wisely limited how the government can use tax dollars to promote that free speech.

Congress would do well to amend the age-old Hatch Act, which limits federal employee involvement in partisan political races, to include limits on all political questions.

And DEA agents would do well to back off their ill-conceived plan against this state ballot issue so that any Hatch Act amendments are precautionary rather than justifiably punitive.

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