The Colorado Springs Gazette rebukes the DEA for meddling in state elections by campaigning against a marijuana legalization initiative that Colorado voters will consider in November. This week the Boulder Daily Camera reported that a DEA agent named Michael Moore had sent an e-mail message to political consultants seeking help finding someone to manage a campaign against the Colorado Alcohol-Marijuana Equalization Initiative, which would legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 or older. Moore mentioned that he had $10,000 in seed money for the campaign.
According to the DEA, the money was raised through private donations (from DEA agents, among others). But Moore used a Justice Department e-mail account to send the message and seems to view opposing the initiative as part of his job. "The American taxpayer does have a right to have the people they've paid to become experts in this business tell them what this is going to do," the special agent in charge of the DEA's Denver office told the Daily Camera. "They should benefit from this expertise." (If so, why bother raising the $10,000 through private donations, instead of just spending taxpayer money?) The Gazette, which has not taken a position on the initiative, is not buying the DEA's "just the facts" pose:
We question the DEA's credibility as an honest broker of information…given the agency's record of selectively presenting the facts in a way that bolster its opposition to drug legalization and medical marijuana use, and given the overzealous way the DEA has gone after doctors and patients that do believe in marijuana's medical benefits, even in states that have approved such uses. It's also impossible to see the DEA as a disinterested party in the debate, given that the agency depends for its existence on the government's prohibition against certain drugs.
The DEA says Moore's on-the-job political activity does not violate the Hatch Act, which applies only to partisan elections. The Gazette says it's wrong even if it's legal:
If the DEA wants to make itself look hard-headed, hardhearted and ridiculous prosecuting medical marijuana users, that's one thing. But when it begins meddling in the political process, to influence a policy decision that only Colorado voters can and should make, that's another….The DEA should immediately put a stop to such activities and butt out of Colorado's business. If it can't find better uses for the taxpayers' money, Congress should slash its budget accordingly.
[Thanks to the Independence Institute's Mike Krause for the tip.]