Medical marijuana grower Cedar Grey examines a flowering plant in his garden in Williams, Ore., on June 25, 2015. (Jeff Barnard, Associated Press file)

How much does DEA pot eradication cost? In Oregon, $60 per plant

The Drug Enforcement Administration spent $960,000 to destroy marijuana plants in Oregon during 2014 as part of its “Cannabis Eradication Program,” according to a recent report by NBC affiliate KGW in Portland, Ore.

That year, the DEA succeeded in removing 16,067 pot plants from Oregon, which at first blush sounds like a lot of weed. But when you do the math, that works out to a cost to taxpayers of $60 per uprooted plant. That is a lot when you consider that nationally, it costs the DEA *ahem* $4.20 to eliminate a single marijuana plant under this program.

The DEA has budgeted $760,000 in marijuana eradication funds for Oregon this year, according to KGW. Considering that marijuana is now legal in that state, many Oregonians — including some members of Congress — are questioning whether that’s a sensible endeavor. They are trying to defund the federal anti-pot program that costs about $18 million a year overall.

The DEA defends the cannabis eradication program on the grounds that much of the marijuana grows it targets in Oregon and elsewhere are the products of Mexican drug cartel activity. “This program has proven effective in dismantling and disrupting drug trafficking organizations,” DEA spokesperson Joseph Moses told KGW.

But some are skeptical, saying that federal authorities may be overstating the connection between Mexican cartels and marijuana operations in the United States. In 2012, the Office of National Drug Control Policy acknowledged that there wasn’t much hard evidence connecting the cartels to marijuana grown in California. “Based on our intelligence, which includes thousands of cellphone numbers and wiretaps, we haven’t been able to connect anyone to a major cartel,” an ONDCP representative told the Los Angeles Times.

Some law enforcement officials in Oregon are dismantling their marijuana eradication programs, according to KGW’s report. “I want to focus on person crimes,” one sheriff told KGW. “Child abuse, sex assault, crimes against people.”

Marijuana, of course, remains illegal under federal law.

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