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When DEA agents do drugs

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This weekend I traveled to Washington D.C. for CPAC, the annual conference held by the American Conservative Union and billed as the nation’s largest yearly gathering of conservatives. I was there to work a booth for an independent film and to see some of the conference’s speakers, but as it turned out, some of my other experiences in Washington were just as enlightening as my time at the conference, including my run-in with the DEA.

On the last day of CPAC, after spending hours on my feet at a booth in the conference’s exhibit hall, I got on the Metro subway and headed for Arlington where I was staying with some friends for the weekend. Instead of going straight home, I made a stop at a bar in Crystal City to unwind and have a quiet moment alone with a drink or two.

“So you just came from CPAC?” The older gentleman next to me with a large glass of beer and a cigarette in his hand gestured toward my bright red CPAC bag, the one you get to hold all those fliers and promotional materials in. We started discussing politics and the Republican Party’s presidential primary and as we talked, the gentleman continued to swill down beer and aggressively chain smoke his way through a pack of cigarettes. He even bought a round of shots for three of us sitting near him at the bar.

That’s about the time that I asked the question you ask everybody when you’re in Washington: “So who do you work for?” In other cities, it’s “So what do you do?” but in Washington, it’s “Who do you work for?” That’s how people identify, define, and categorize themselves and each other there. It’s always a government agency, a lobbyist, a non-profit– something related to the massive political-bureaucratic complex headquartered in the District of Columbia. The man said, “I work for the DEA.” “Ah yes,” I replied,” The Drug Enforcement Administration.” He smiled and answered, “I’m glad you said ‘administration.’ People always say ‘agency.'”

For literally years now, I’ve been writing here at the Independent Voter Network to cover news, current events, and public policy. One of my major areas of focus has been drug policy and the unintended consequences of drug prohibition, so you can only imagine that my interest was piqued when I discovered I’d been drinking and talking with a DEA employee. I pressed him for details and from what I could gather, he directs operations to interdict the flow of illegal drugs over the borders. He’s part of an organization that exists to restrict the recreational use of drugs and to punish people who have anything to do with the drugs under its purview– and he was sitting next to me happily enjoying two drugs of his own: alcohol and nicotine.

The irony hit me so hard that I had to stifle a big laugh. This man’s work is predicated on the idea that drugs like marijuana are so dangerous that people cannot be trusted to use them responsibly and safely. They have to be prohibited by law and any dissidents jailed and imprisoned for violating the rules. Yet here he was safely and peacefully imbibing alcohol and sucking the nicotine-infused smoke from cigarette after glowing cigarette into his lungs, an act that is strongly linked to lung cancer while smoking marijuana joints might not be. If a man like this, who probably considers himself very successful, a man who works hard at his job in a federal agency and pays his own way through life, can responsibly use two mind-altering substances to unwind at the end of a hard week, why does he think other productive, peaceful Americans are incapable of doing the same with a different drug?

Isn’t it just a little hypocritical to work for an organization called the Drug Enforcement Administration while clearly addicted to one drug, and recreationally imbibing another? If all of the arguments for marijuana prohibition are sound, then shouldn’t we also ban this DEA employee’s drugs of choice? Aren’t they also bad for your health, addictive, and responsible for thousands of deaths? My experience over the weekend helped crystallize the image of inconsistency surrounding federal drug policy. Washington is a city where hundreds of lawmakers vote to ban certain drugs and hundreds more bureaucrats work to enforce that ban– then they all leave work for the day and some unwind by legally and publicly enjoying a cold alcoholic beverage and a pack of nicotine cigarettes. Does that make any sense at all?


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Mike Meza
Mike Meza

Are decapitated heads in Mexico an unintended consequence of drug use? Does not the oath of allegiance trump personal choice? I am not so sure you have an understanding of addiction. Your non-deliberatuve diatribe spews with your own prejudices on the subjects of drug control, morality, duty, liberalism, lawful and unlawful, law enforcement and lastly free will.

At some point in time this representative government imposes restrictions by what is commonly known as "male prohibita" crimes. You don't have to like or abide by them but just know if your detected penalties inure.

What cracks me up is seeing a law abiding citizen stopped at a red light waiting for a green at 3AM with no traffic in sight because of his obedience to the rule of law. This is a real hypocrisy; a mechanical apparatus controlling the independent deductive free thinking will of man.

Here is the greater point I derive from your article. By adhering to the rule of law the DEA agent is a hypocrite but if not he quite possibly would have been both a pot and cigarette smoker and imbiber.

I have seen far too many potheads with lethargies in thought ,speech, and motion who eventually are ignored from any intellectual exchange to think just about its lung cancer potential. Viva Cheech & Chong!!!!


Alcohol and drug abuse among law enforcement agents/officers is widespread. It's as though their careers are unconscious reaction formations against drugs, while many continue to have problems with substance abuse. While no doubt alcohol and tobacco have wreaked havoc on the health and morals of generations, there is a fair point that we must gauge the level of destructivity among the many substances readily available to the public, either with the blessing of the law or not. In your example, a cold beer and cigarette which you correctly categorized as drugs have a lower threshold of damage to one's personal life than say cocaine or heroin. On the other hand, social norms govern the way we think about drugs in the first place and one could argue that if cocaine was never criminalized to begin with it wouldn't be a more dangerous drug. That is not simply not the case. Marijuana has fostered a generation of mediocre talents who never reach their peak, because well they are too busy getting stoned. Cocaine turns even the most prudent person into a monstrous trainwreck who will stop at nothing to get grab another bag. I think there are reasons why as a society we tolerate drugs more or less in the order they are tolerated. Cigarettes kill our loved ones slowly and alcohol no doubt is a dangerous substance in need of greater regulation in some aspects. And yet, hard and soft drugs have there own set of destructive parameters.


I agree with the DEA employee that many people can't be trusted with marijuana to use them responsibly and safely but they also can't be trusted with alcohol and cigarettes.