Legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington caused the plant to be exempt from police seizure, both criminal and civil. However, state and local police have begun working in conjunction with federal law enforcement in a practice called “equitable sharing.”
When police execute criminal or civil seizures, the items, money, and property that are seized aren’t admitted to evidence for criminal proceedings, but are inventoried and auctioned for police funding. Often, police departments in the country waste the money on police overspending and frivolous purchases not having to do with law enforcement at all.
From 2002 and 2012, police in Colorado and Washington recovered over $36 million in cash and property in civil and criminal seizures. However, the new laws legalizing recreational marijuana have posed a threat to that income and now local law enforcement in those states have developed a program with federal law enforcement to get around that exemption from seizure: equitable sharing.
Equitable Sharing is a cyclical relationship between local police and federal police where each agency can approach each other about federally illegal activity, which selling and using marijuana still is, and the federal government can execute a civil seizure on state-legal marijuana shops and grow operations. The government figures its cut of the take, and local law enforcement gets the rest, usually about 80 percent of the seizures worth.
Similar actions have taken place in California, where medical marijuana is legal. The federal government has given over $21 million in forfeitures to the Anaheim police since 2008. Tony Jalali of Anaheim owns an office building that he rents out to local businesses, one of which being a medical marijuana dispensary. An undercover Anaheim cop bought four grams of legal, medical marijuana, and the case was kicked up the DEA and Jalali almost lost his business.
Jalali was able to recover his business because, according to California law, police can’t seize real property unless the owner was convicted of a crime related to the property. The Anaheim police requested that state prosecutors help in the attempted seizure, but refused.
Marijuana prohibition is clearly about the money. It’s laughable that law enforcement on all levels claim that prohibition is meant to protect the well-being of our children and overall health of the American people. Marijuana is a lucrative product, and everyone wants a piece of the action. The only deciding factor directing who gets the money goes is policy.