Financial & Banking

What Should You Do If the DEA Seizes Your Property?

Asia Mayfield
Written by Asia Mayfield

America is morphing into a pro-cannabis country. Despite this reality, the DEA is still hunting after people in the industry. Cannabis enthusiasts and dispensaries should take proper precaution. If they’re carrying cash or part of their supply in an area with federal agents, they can get busted even if they’re in a state with legal recreational cannabis.

Over the past five years, the DEA’s program has been responsible for nearly 30,000 arrests, the eradication of 21.6 million marijuana plants, and the seizure of more than $165 million worth of property nationwide. In 2016 alone, theDEA seized 5.3 million cannabis plants.

Dispensaries and Growers

Dispensary owners should follow the letter of the state law to stay off the government radar. California Assembly Bill 2679 prohibits agents from targeting cannabis businesses that are compliant with state regulations.

However, according to a 2017 report from the Justice Department’s inspector general office, “We found that different task force officers made different decisions in similar situations when deciding whether to seize all of the cash discovered. These differences demonstrate how seizure decisions can appear arbitrary…”

If your establishment is raided, it doesn’t have to be the end. You can rebuild if you have the drive and the right support.

A good way to protect yourself is to think ahead. If you’re growing for yourself, keep it indoors. Resist keeping all of your money in one place. And remember to fight for your case! Especially if your money is seized and you’re never charged with a crime.

For Consumers

You can be stopped by the DEA for almost any reason. An agent smelling cannabis is a big reason why people are searched. A California man lost $29,000 in this year after he was stopped by the DEA inside an airport. The agents reported smelling cannabis on his dirty laundry. No drugs were found, and the man wasn’t arrested but the government kept his money.

If you’re traveling with a large amount of cash and you get snagged by the DEA, your best hope is to contest the decision. If you’re caught with cannabis on your person, well, that depends on how the agents choose to deal with you.

Lines are long, and people are in a hurry at border checkpoints, so agents tend be lenient about small amounts of cannabis. If you’re carrying less than an ounce there’s a good chance you won’t be arrested. Your stash will be confiscated.

You might be arrested at an airport or train station or you might be let go. Whatever happens, the best thing that you can do is to remain calm. Save your arguments for your lawyer if you get charged with anything.

The Laws

Civil asset forfeiture laws allow the government to seize your property if there’s a suspicion that it’s connected to crime. If this happens to you, there’s not a whole lot that you can do to defend yourself. Filing a complaint is a long, tedious process.

The problem is so dire that a bipartisan bill designed solely to protect the cannabis industry from the DEA was introduced to the House by Reps. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Justin Amash (R-MI). It’s called the “Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture Funding for Marijuana Suppression Act.” Originally presented to the House in 2015, Lieu and Amash re-introduced it last January.

“Civil asset forfeiture is an unconstitutional practice whereby the government takes people’s property without due process,” Rep. Amash explained. “The DEA’s use of proceeds acquired through civil asset forfeiture to expand marijuana enforcement—a state-level issue—makes the already unacceptable practice even worse.”

“While asset forfeiture is a useful law enforcement tool to fight crime, the current lack of oversight and training poses dangers to Americans’ civil liberties,” Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in 2017.

It’s bad enough when the government takes a couple hundred dollars from you or confiscates a joint. What happens when you’re an industry professional and your livelihood is threatened?

About the author

Asia Mayfield

Asia Mayfield

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