There are many facets to the war on marijuana. A lot of Americans are familiar with SWAT raids, which have been shown on the late night news many times. Media outlets are quick to report when law enforcement is kicking down doors and raiding dispensaries or cultivation sites. But there are other facets to the war on marijuana that are much, much more boring to the average American, and therefore they don’t get nearly as much attention.
Things like banking restrictions, 280E tax provisions, and asset forfeiture are weapons that the government uses to help enforce marijuana prohibition, and because they are as sensational as a militarized police force arresting people, they don’t get nearly as much ink in the press. Many Americans have no idea what asset forfeiture is, but when its explained to them, an overwhelming majority of them are opposed to it. Per the CATO Institute:
Eighty-four percent (84%) of Americans oppose civil asset forfeiture-police “taking a person’s money or property that is suspected to have been involved in a drug crime before the person is convicted of a crime,” according to a new Cato Institute/YouGov survey of 2,000 Americans. Only 16% think police ought to be allowed to seize property before a person is convicted.
Civil asset forfeiture is a process by which police officers seize a person’s property (e.g. their car, home, or cash) if they suspect the individual or property is involved with criminal activity. The individual does not need to be charged with, or convicted of, any crime for police to seize assets. In most jurisdictions police departments may keep the property they seize or the proceeds from its sale. However, as these survey results demonstrate, most Americans oppose this practice.
I know people personally that have had their stuff seized by law enforcement via asset forfeiture, despite the fact that they were never charged with a crime. They have had money taken from them, vehicles, and all types of other possessions. It’s essential legal theft by the government. It’s something that needs to stop immediately, but it will take a very concerted effort to make it happen. It’s not an area of marijuana reform that gets people as fired up as they should be. Hopefully the results of this poll are spread far and wide and awareness increases, and with it, the growth of calls for asset forfeiture reform.