New Federal Law Targets Civil Pot-Forfeiture Issues

For anyone who noted the civil forfeiture issues raised by HBO’s John Oliver (and if you have not, stop whatever you’re doing and watch it now), there’s news of a bill that would target the marijuana aspects of the practice, cutting off some funding for the DEA.
On a Forbes Magazine “recommended blog,” Nick Sibilla of the Institute for Justice reports that a bipartisan bill in Congress “… would prevent the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from using federal forfeiture funds to pay for its Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program. Additionally, the bill would ban transferring property to federal, state or local agencies if that property ‘is used for any purpose pertaining to’ the DEA’s marijuana eradication program.”
The blog adds some context: “Last year, the program was responsible for over 6,300 arrests, eradicating over 4.3 million marijuana plants and seizing $27.3 million in assets. More than half of all plants destroyed were in California, which also accounted for over one-third of seized assets and nearly 40 percent of the arrests.”

John Oliver Somehow Makes ‘Civil Forfeiture’ Funny

There has long been a rule of inverse interest in the media, which holds that the more important an issue is, the more boring coverage becomes. Example: The United Nation’s committee work on feeding the world’s starving children is vital to humanity and not the stuff of spectator sport; a bunch of guys running around a field kicking a ball has no real impact and is obsessed over by billions.
But John Oliver, the comic host of Last Week Tonight on HBO, defies the rule with an informative and very funny report on the nation’s civil forfeiture practices. The laws vary among states, but basically allow authorities to seize property even if the owner is never charged with a crime – just like in immigration court, many rights associated with police action are not in play because these are civil actions.
A recent less-funny report in The New Yorker magazine noted that “… unlike criminal forfeiture, which requires that a person be convicted of an offense before his or her property is confiscated, civil forfeiture amounts to a lawsuit filed directly against a possession, regardless of its owner’s guilt or innocence. One result is the rise of improbable case names such as United States v. One Pearl Necklace and United States v. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins.” Those were cited by Oliver in his report.
It would be much funnier if it did not illustrate just how messed up and abused our civil justice system can be. Take a look – and it’s worth watching the whole video. Click Here.