Drug Policy

Drug Czar Wants More Money to Spend on Taking Your Stuff

ONDCP requests record amount to "manage the massive paper flow associated with forfeiture."


The Washington Post reports that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) wants more money "to identify assets, prosecute cases and 'manage the massive paper flow associated with forfeiture.'"

Asset-forfeiture, in which law enforcement seizes property, cash, and goods that it says is connected to drug crimes and activity, is controversial but incredibly lucrative.

Last year, for instance, cops took more stuff from people than criminals did. And, as Steven Greenhut wrote here, many of the instances are outrageous:

One Anaheim couple almost lost a $1.5 million commercial building after an undercover cop bought $37 in marijuana from a tenant, but the feds dropped that case after bad publicity.

Created in the early days of the nation's war on drugs, asset forfeiture was designed to grab the proceeds from drug kingpins. But most of the money now is grabbed from ordinary citizens. According to a study last year, about 80 percent of the time, seized property is taken from people who have never been charged with anything.

Now the drug czar's office (as ONDCP is popularly known) wants to ramp up efforts even more. From the Post:

Despite calls for reform from lawmakers and advocacy groups, budget numbers recently released by the Office of National Drug Control Policy suggest forfeiture efforts will ramp up next year.

Wash Post

For fiscal year 2016, the Department of Justice has requested $297.2 million in funding to support the asset forfeiture activities of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces. That's a $14 million increase over the previous year, and a 164 percent increase in drug-related asset forfeiture spending since 2008.

By contrast, the overall federal drug control budget has increased by only about 25 percent over the same period.

Police departments not only get to keep a large amount of the value of what they seize but have come to depend on that extra revenue stream. Explains Grant Smith of the Drug Policy Alliance to the Post:

"Forfeiture activity across the country has exploded since 2000 in large part due to the growing reliance by law enforcement on the use of civil asset forfeiture to bring a cash windfall to police budgets."

Read the whole piece here.

Last year, Reason TV talked with economist Bart Wilson, who studies how bad incentives push cops to take more stuff, especially via asset forfeiture:

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  1. …wants more money “to identify assets, prosecute cases and ‘manage the massive paper flow associated with forfeiture.'”

    Mo Money Mo Problems

    1. right they need more money to keep taking people’s’ money?

  2. Sheriff of Notingham requests more funds from the Crown

    Mulcting peasants of their silver pennies is deuced hard, Majesty!

  3. ONDCP is a socialist front.

  4. What? I just watched a piece last night about how this guy was wonderful. He said that the WOD was a failure and we need to stop locking up addicts.

    I guess he wants them out working to get fancy shit that they can steal from them, rather than just locking them up.

    1. Sorry the puff piece was on 60 Minutes.

    2. I saw that. He’s a recovering drunk and a married gay (NTTAWWT). He’s against legalized MJ because it lowers IQ and makes states addicted to the revenue, or perhaps because he can’t handle it.

      1. I never watch 60 min but I watched part of that interview. I had to change it because he just started railing a bunch of idiotic, debunked reasons to keep cannabis illegal. My finger hit the button when he said “addicted to marijuana.”

        1. Yeah, I watched it. I wanted to fucking puke. I had this ridiculous fantasy that they might broach the insane idea that the government has no business telling people what “substances” they may possess or ingest into their own bodies. I also had this fantasy that they might bring up observations about how much harm prohibition in general has done to society across the board. But I guess “drugs” are different from alcohol. And notions like this are not on the 3 x 5 card of allowable opinion, as Tom Woods would put it.

  5. Nice to see that one of the most horrible policies started by Reagan has been massively expanded by Obama. But you know, the Democrats are like totally different than those Republicans.

  6. Those holdovers from the Bush administration sure are persistent.

  7. FUCK. THAT. ASSHOLE. I hope that everyone in his family develops colorectal cancer and dies from it very slowly.

    1. Especially his favorite child.

  8. At least when you pay protection money to the Mob they actually leave you alone. Here we pay the protection money to fund them to fuck with us.

  9. The drug war was hugely lucrative to massive sectors of the economy. They are really panicking. The funny thing is that he says ‘treatment not jail for addiction’ but those things are exactly what create ‘addiction’ and if jail is no longer a threat then these people just become normal drug users and do drugs and then move on after a while assuming they don’t kill themselves (which is almost always intentional unless you believe the claims of lifelong liars). Anyway I almost feel bad for them because they have to find new income streams as drugs are legalized. I think the future is building stuff – maybe go back to school for a degree in project management or something. Or teaching – people with problematic drug use usually have educational deficiencies – unless you believe the lies of the treatment industry, which is really suffering. Have you seen the commercials? They are getting desperate.

  10. “Asset-forfeiture, in which law enforcement seizes property, cash, and goods that it says is connected to drug crimes and activity, is controversial but incredibly lucrative.”

    If they are asking for more money to handle all the attendant bureaucracy, then what that seems to be saying is that forfeiture is NOT inherently lucrative (otherwise, it would be self-financing and generate a surplus), but rather is a great excuse to increase tax revenues. In other words, the government seems to be taking from all sides. Forfeiture delenda est.

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