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L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca says deputies would enforce marijuana laws even if Prop. 19 passes

Baca Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said Friday his deputies’ marijuana enforcement would not change even if Proposition 19, which would legalize the drug in California, passes Nov. 2.

“Proposition 19 is not going to pass, even if it passes,” Baca said in a news conference Friday at sheriff's headquarters in Monterey Park.

Baca, whose department polices three-fourths of the county, was bolstered Friday by an announcement from the Obama administration that federal officials would continue to “vigorously enforce” marijuana laws in California, even if state voters pass the measure.

Baca said the proposition was superseded by federal law and if passed, would be found unconstitutional.

Campaign contributions: Who has given for and against Prop. 19? 

Flanked by other opponents of the measure, including Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, Baca made a colorful assault on marijuana use and sales. Asked if he had ever experimented with the drug, Baca was unequivocal. “Hell no,” he said.

Baca said legalizing marijuana would have far-reaching repercussions, including increasing the costs of drug rehabilitation, causing traffic accidents, prompting labor disputes with employees getting high on the job and providing a safe cover for drug cartels selling harder narcotics.

California’s laws for personal users already are lenient, he said.

“If you have a need for an ounce or less … then use your marijuana, but use it privately,” he said. “If you want to do a joint in your house, do it. Leave the rest of us alone.”

Baca said personal users smoking in their homes were already a non-priority for police agencies, including his own. His department’s target, he said, are the dealers.

Baca came out against the measure early on, joining forces with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to try to defeat it. Polls have shown California voters are split.

Baca said Friday local law enforcement agencies should abide by federal drug laws prohibiting marijuana even if the state measure passes.

“[Prop.] 19 has no effect on what we’re going to do,” he said

-- Robert Faturechi in Monterey Park

Photo: L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Click to learn more about the debate about marijuana legalization Read more:

Proposition 19: California's marijuana legalization debate


Comments () | Archives (229)

He will enforce federal marijuana laws but refuse to enforce federal immigration laws? Wonder what the effect on the Obama's enforcement would be if the LA Sheriff decided to enforce federal laws, and will Mayor Villaragoisa boycott the Sheriff if he tries to enforce federal law, like Arizona?

If Prop 19 passes - I'm going to smoke a joint right in front of this guy's house. I have no problem being arrested for something that isn't against the law...

People like this Sheriff are going to keep on trying to enforce a Federal Police State and its going to cause a 10th amendment revolt that's in the U.S. Constitution .

Any State can break away from the Union completely, severing all ties to the Federal Govt. I can see this happening in the very near future. I am a supporter of the 10th amendment movement and all it would take is just for ONE STATE to break away from the Union invoking their 10th amendment and many more States would fall in line.

Forget about voting out and in new Sheriffs and forget completely about voting out or in the same old Washington D.C. crowd. Meet the new boss...same as the old boss, it never changes. Left then Right...Right then Left, partisan politics are a scheme.

Break your mentality of thinking in terms of Left or Right parties, that system was set up to scam the masses from the beginning. Real change won't ever happen until there's a breaking away from the Federal Govt. , California has enough open-minded and trail blazing people to lead the way.

The 10th amendment movement could actually get America back to its glory days. Drugs could be legalized , as they should've never been ILLEGALIZED in the first place, manufacturing plants could come back, States could trade goods with other States, the worthless Federal Reserve Dollar would finally be trashed for a new currency , the corrupt Washington D.C. politicians and judges could be jailed like they deserve.

U.S. troops could be brought back from the mid-east ending the war over oil, technological suppression would end bringing with it mass production of transportation ran off electrical motors and hydrogen cells,ect.

As long as the U.S. is controlled by Federal policies , then there won't ever be any change, except bad change. States rights and their 10th amendment is the only way to turn things around for the good of the people.

Baca works for the people. The people vote these laws in. So why the personal views?

When 19 passes, he'll fall in line or get out.

so when deputies start getting shot for strongarming "joe citizen" that feels the need to defend himself when he's obviously abiding by state law who is at fault besides the top cop? Supreme Court cases & riots are sure to follow. local cop = local cop... dont let those stars on your collar drown you in power bud, your no Commanding General. With justice/conviction on the side of the people these cops will end up hiding in the basements locking themselves in the arms rooms waiting for the National Guard to put out the fire. No officer worth his weight would put his troops in harms way for no reason...

The LA County Supervisors should call for Baca to resign as of today or suspend him pending a investigation or hearing. The Sheriff publiccally stated his intent /conspiracy to break a State Law. Conspiracy is usually a pretty serious crime these days, not one to be taken lightly. The last thing we need is a rogue cop running around with a gun and power complex.

California’s laws for personal users already are lenient, he said.

“If you have a need for an ounce or less … then use your marijuana, but use it privately,” he said. “If you want to do a joint in your house, do it. Leave the rest of us alone.”

But you'll have to deal with criminals to get it, and good luck getting it home.

Ending prohibition is not a solution to drug use- it is a solution to local and organized crime syndicates and to get drugs out of the hands of kids. Regulate and control- don't let the criminals do it.

"Baca said personal users smoking in their homes were already a non-priority for police agencies, including his own. His department’s target, he said, are the dealers."

So how are we supposed to get the herb to smoke in our homes if you go after the dealers? Idiot!

Sheriff Baca is 100% correct. He is realistic in his opinion of continue prosecution for "all" dope dealers, and not detaining the users of one ounce or less. Using department man power for said reason, would be counter-productive.
I just wish Harris (Houston) County authorities would follow L.A. County's and The State of California present policy.

I don't know why people think Proposition 19 is going to pass. The people who vote in the largest numbers whether Democrat or Republican tend to be responsible, older citizens. Do you druggies actually think your little pothead friends are going to go out and vote? As for law enforcement prosecuting if Proposition 19 should pass; all the sheriff would have to do is selectively prosecute, i.e. ignore the low level users while going after growers, distributors and big mouths.

If prop 19 doesn't matter then why hold a press conference Mr. Baca??? Obviously prop 19 DOES matter because it will eventually lead to the legalization of marijuana and police officers will be laid off because they won't be fighting Reagan's old "drug war" on marijuana. This is all about MONEY! Vote YES to legalize it. Stop the government's prohibition insanity.

How ironic that the cops want to continue to enforce marijuana laws even if this passes, yet they refuse to enforce existing immigration laws. It's a DOUBLE STANDARD. And when was the last time you saw Feds doing marijuana enforcement in California?? The STATE handles the VAST majority of enforcement! Baca is using scare tactics. FAIL!

Then WHY even put ANYTHING to a vote if it will not have any meaning.
PROP. 8 and PROP. 19 are a JOKE.
It's OBVIOUS that the vote of the people means absolutely NOTHING!

I urge every citizen of Los Angeles county to call the Sheriff's Department complaint line and make your voice heard. The Sheriff's job is to enforce COUNTY law. If he is unable to do so, he must be removed.

L.A. Sheriff complaint line: 800-698-8255.

To those of you comparing Baca's refusal to comply with Prop 19, should it pass, with Brown's refusal to enforce Prop 8, the AG is supposed to uphold both the California and U.S. Constitutions and Prop 8 was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge.

Prop 19 may ultimately be stricken, but until it is, it will remain a valid California law which Baca--a California peace officer--is obligated to comply with.

I guess Baca doesn't believe he has to uphold the laws of California. I wonder if he's going to enforce the federal penalties for cannabis possession instead of the California penalties.

Prohibitionists argue against cannabis legalization because it’s against federal law, or they believe state legislators could make a better law. But this is just a stalling tactic, since politicians will never lead the change, even if they know the cannabis laws are unfair and damage US interests more than the drug use. They think demonizing drug users will get more votes, so they are quite willing to harm others to further their own interest.

Cannabis legalization is unstoppable. If the politicians want to participate in the process, they better get started, because the train has left the station and change is happening.

I am not a marijuana user and spent 30+ years in public safety. It is not Baca's job to decide which of the laws passed in this state he will pursue. If it passes and becomes law he is obligated to act within the law until it is overturned. Baca you do not make policy. You work for us I hope your arrogance will be remembered when YOU are up for election. I think it's about time you and your five stars on your collar left us/

Baca illeagle immigration is a Federal law. Why not enforce it as well

Welcome to F-A-S-C-I-S-M.

When a country has a war against plants, you know that they've lost their minds.

So basically Baca thinks he has more authority than he actually does. Vote him out!

how many other things is he going to "enforce" that aren't illegal? interracial marriage? homosexuality? peaceful protest?

it ain't up to you, Baca. step off.

Well there you have it. From the top cop in LA, you only have to abide by laws you agree with. This is yet another razor-blade slice in the fabric of freedom that is already badly bleeding. The government has already stepped way over its bounds with the CSA asserting that people can only put into their bodies what the government approves of. And somehow this is justified via the commerce clause as are many other bs laws.

Rather than take the freedom oriented position of enforcing quality standards, accuracy in labeling or manufacturer claims and "letting" people do as they choose, they chose the fascist dictatorship route of criminalizing possession and users of substances on the magic list because they know better than these people who obviously need protection from themselves.

This mentality of We The Government know better and you lowly citizens better behave has got to stop. Using authority derived from The People to control their victimless choices and behavior is not only unethical, its unamerican. The government has over-reached into so many aspects of daily life, it cannot control anything effectively now but will damn sure go broke trying.

So if prop 19 passes, the police will still enforce the law, and it will make no difference? No harm voting for it then. No point voting against it. (At least that's what Sheriff Baca seems to be saying.)

By the way, some of the people commenting have mentioned Prop 8. Prop 8 was upheld by the State until a Federal Judge ruled against it. If a Federal Judge rules against Prop 19, local authorities will likely restart enforcement. Until that happens, it's Baca's job to uphold the State law.

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