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Opinion: The great pot hunt: The federal eradication program is a waste

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(Chicago Tribune file photo)

(Chicago Tribune file photo)

(Chicago Tribune file photo)

The federal government thinks marijuana use ought to be stopped.

So it has a program to “eradicate” the plant. The program accomplishes little, sometimes at much cost. Instead of the plant, Congress should eradicate the program.

In 2015, the program awarded $20,000 to New Hampshire. That eradicated 27 plants. You can probably do the math, but, as The Washington Post points out, it’s $740.74 per plant. In Utah, by contrast, nothing adds up. There, at a cost of $73,000, zero plants were eradicated.

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In some states, the program was more successful. Kentucky, with $1.9 million, eradicated 570,000 plants. That’s just $3.33 a plant. In a story last year, the Post said eradicators had gone after okra plants, warned of rabbits liking pot and, in the mid-2000s, been found to have gotten more wild, nonpsychoactive “ditchweed” than actual, smokable pot.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, which runs the roughly $14 million program, credits it with the seizure of $29.7 million of assets. Yet federal agencies should not be allowed to defend their programs by how much they seize.

Taking people’s property doesn’t produce wealth, and counting it in a program’s favor creates an incentive that has nothing to do with any legitimate policy goals. Trying to eradicate marijuana is futile. It’s too easy to grow, and there’s too much demand for it.

Worse, the program runs against the trend of public policy and public opinion. Many states are embracing at least some marijuana legalization.

A Gallup poll this time last year found that 58 percent of Americans favored marijuana legalization. What, if anything, should be done to stop people from using marijuana is a question best left to the states.

The federal government should eradicate this silly and expensive program.

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