“DEA” stands for the United States Drug Enforcement Administration or US DEA and is therefore an acronym for a proper noun. The DEA is the federal entity tasked in part with collecting, analyzing, and disseminating information on “drugs,” which currently includes cannabis.

What is the DEA?

The DEA exists to enforce federal drug laws and regulations in the United States, so this intelligence mission is technically important to that stated goal.

However, this is—justifiably—where the idea of the narc comes from. Due to decades of pointless drug wars that were in fact intended to fail, the DEA and the term itself have taken on additional meanings within the context of cannabis culture.

In fact, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, the DEA has been implicated in several efforts to spy on innocent American citizens. It has also ignored science, fueled racial bias and abuse, and otherwise contributed to the failed War on Drugs which has resulted in mass incarceration in the United States.

It has also managed to self-own in the process—or, perhaps, cannabis users and people who care about civil liberties have resisted by the DEA by ridiculing it.

For example, because the DEA itself has generated internal dictionaries and lists of “drug slang,” many cannabis users and even others in the mainstream media have subjected them to ridicule. [See, for example, “The DEA’s drug slang dictionary is tremendous,” in The Washington Post.]

Partial explanation: since by definition any successful illegal substance user will be at least a step ahead of the DEA, DEA slang is likely to be outdated as soon as it is documented. Since anyone who has ever watched a Tom and Jerry cartoon or a James Bond movie knows that, the DEA appears to be at a disadvantage here.

DEA: Usage and Meaning


  • “Uh, even my Aunt Julia and the DEA know what you’re talking about man, can you keep that a little quieter?”
  • “Guy asked if I knew where he could ‘Score some dope reefer,’ and I was like, ‘Go back to the DEA.”
  • “Cannabis businesses in our state are mostly thriving, but until the DEA declassifies marijuana as a schedule I drug, things will remain difficult at the federal level.”
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