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Baca said the proposition was superseded by federal law and if passed, would be found unconstitutional.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

The tail doesn't wag the dog, Sheriff.

I'm just wondering, what other laws do you choose to ignore due to your discretion?

What kind of country are we living in that some small time elected sheriff can tell the people who put him charge that their vote is only good if it passes his ideology standards.

"Would have far reaching repercussions" yeah, like thinning out the heavy tax burden of law enforcement narcotics divisions, making the prison population deflate enormously and put the kybosh on confiscated property due to drug involvement.

if prop19 passes; the first 6 months the cops will make arrests for marijuana just like they did in 2004 when sb420 passed. Once enough judges dismiss enough cases the cops will have no choice but to fall in line with state law.

california cops will have a very hard time enforcing a conflicting federal law in a state court.

Prop 8 was a violation of the U. S. Constitution and was a deliberate assault on people's human rights. Of course it was struck down as a theofascist crime against America and the Federal government is charged with protecting Americans' rights.

Prop 19, however, is *not* a Human Rights or Civil Rights issue, it's not designed by theofascist Christian traitors who hate our country, and it does not harm anyone but the idiot dopers themselves -- while providing massive positive financial benefit to the State of California.

All the rightarded hate mongers who think that the Obama regime's opposition and Baca's opposition to Prop 19 is some how equal to the Constitution's opposition to Prop 8 are stupid rightards.

We need to support Prop 19... This guy is a moron, and doesn't want to listen to the people. If the people want to legalize cannabis... LET THEM! Don't arrest them because they want to legalize cannabis, and use it! That is ridiculous, and is so cruel!

That's too bad that he feels this way. I don't feel the same about it as him. Because I now know his stance, I will likely not vote for him again should he run for re-election. That may very well go for Feinstein too.

Jesus... am I reading The Onion here? Is this jerk for real? Does he know who he works for, and that we can vote him out?

He seriously should be removed from his position immediately for even saying stuff like that. I mean, that's like treason or something, right?

ALL of the problems he claims it will cause are laughable. Who is buying this nonsense? Rehab costs? Labor disputes? WHAT ON EARTH? And doesn't he realize that all these nefarious dealers they are spending so many resources on busting will essentially be obsolete if the prop passes? Damn, I want to punch this ass. I'll bet you anything he's afraid of losing federal funding or some BS. Or is just too much of a coward to admit that 1/2 of what his officers have traditionally been focused on will immediately be pointless and he will have to find real police work for them to do for once.

So Lee Baca will enforce a law that will be defeated? I think Mr Baca should realize that this is a democracy and not a police state! Once an elected official makes such a public proclamation against the peoples will, a recall should happen immediately.

@Lisa Porter "Do you druggies actually think your little pothead friends are going to go out and vote?"

Wow, condescending much? I'm surprised you even know how to use a computer considering you are probably like 100 years old.

The 'lazy and stupid' stereotype of marijuana users is so tired. And it comes from racist propaganda from 70-odd years ago. All of the users I know are grown adults who are responsible and generally more healthy than the average person. Hardly 'little' or 'druggies', and definitely very politically active and voters.

Get with the times.

What's all this Prop 8 crap? The will of the people cannot discriminate against a minority. How is Prop 8 similar to the will of the people legalizing a plant's cultivation, distribution and use?

If Baka arrests and the AG prosecutes one person distributing marijuana in compliance with the state law, they'll be sued for unlawful arrest. They are state employees who enforce state laws. Especially if they hand the person over to the federal government. That's a direct violation of the state law.

Holder will still prosecute people, because it's his job to defend federal laws. The question is really what effect that will have. Because of the large number of resources that would be needed, his attempts will probably fruitless. So they'll take it to the courts. The DOJ will argue Supremacy Clause and when that doesn't work they'll argue Commerce Clause.

The Supremacy Clause probably won't hold because there has to be conflict between the state and federal laws, meaning that 1) Congress has declared that it covers the "field" the Controlled Substance Act pertains to (which the CSA clearly says Congress did not intend to do*), 2) be an obstacle (the CSA says it's not doing that), 3) expressly state that it was overriding state law (again CSA doesn't do that), or 4) it's impossible for a citizen to obey both laws (which, since Prop 19 does not mandate that you have to cultivate, distribute, or use cannabis, it is possible to obey both laws - just follow federal law, if you want). The only type of preemption the CSA allows the federal government is when the two laws are in "positive conflict" and there isn't any conflict. (* CSA, 21 U.S.C. sec 903 - if it was reported to me correctly)

The Commerce Clause is the biggest hurdle, since the Feds have been using that to give themselves all sorts of crazy powers for 70 some odd years now. The important part here seems to be that the state and local police (by the then-new law which Baka wants to ignore) aren't allowed by state law to aid the federal government in enforcing its laws. The Feds have no constitutional right to force the States to prohibit and punish something that the States don't want to prohibit and punish. So, the feds could still prosecute whomever they want and the person or corporation couldn't do jack about it. Without the State's resources it would be logistically infeasible for them to do so, and yet it would not be unconstitutional or illegal for the State to refuse to help. The federal government is still able to regulate it under federal law, and the state law doesn't prohibit them from doing that. Hence, it's possible that Prop 19 will survive that argument as well, but the Commerce Clause has been broadly interpreted for a while now. It will be interesting litigation in its proximity to the constitutionality-of-the-Healthcare-Bill lawsuits which are questioning the broad use of the CC too.

But anyway, that's when they start withdrawing funding... But still, that's no reason not to fight the legal battle in the first place. That's a big decision for the Feds make, considering the fragile state of California's economy and it's large population. They won't make it lightly. And hopefully by then we'll all see that legalized pot does not lead to social Armageddon.

Notice how excited and angry Baca becomes at the thought of legalizing drugs. It is all about money. If 19 passes his department and budget will be cut. I respect Baca and it hurts to see a public servant react negatively to 19. He more than most knows the devastation his department has done to lives and property by enforcing drug laws. Shame.

For a long time they would tell us things like "we don't make the laws, we only enforce them" or "if you don't like a law, you should change it". We're now seeing this guy for what he really is. A wannabe dictator who makes the law as he sees fit. This guy has a rude surprise coming to him. The California Supreme Court has already ruled on this. If he really goes through with this, he should be taken to court. The law would be on our side.

I wonder how long it will take for this old man to be removed from office if he decides to go against A LAW VOTED in BY THE PEOPLE!

time for baca to retire really old looking!

Your days are numbered. How much are the cartels paying you? Time for the people to get rid of these little Gods who think the people have no say in the running of the governement.

now how can a sherriff say he is going to enforce fed laws that go against state law when he gets payed by the CALIFORNIA tax payers. makes no sence. the government is screwing up the world taxing us for air we live from and arresting us for a plant that hasnt killed anyone

Sheriff Baca, this article is evidence that you are conspiring to break the law.
Attorney Steve Cooley, when you were in Law School,
were you listening to your ipod when the talked about the 10th Amendment?.
Thanks for the bulletin board material. I can't think of a better way to motivate

The guy is an idiot. I just looked at federal penalties it appears they start at 50 kilos. That might be a tad to much for personal use. What law is he going to enforce? Is he going to make it up as he goes. Obama said he is going to enforce the law to the fullest also. Go ahead it will keep major industry out of the business and keep it a small home grown business. I think Obama needs to go next.

"protect and serve". OOPs, that was the police, not the sheriff ... theirs must "prosecute and serve" (as in warrants and stuff).

I really hope that the founding fathers were not foreseeing a tyrannical government that would cause the free men of the US to bare arms.

Sherif Baca will enforce federal law if it comes to marijuana, but he won't enforce federal law when it comes to Illegals. Jackass!

So, Baca will enforce federal law and go after potheads, but he refuses to enforce federal law and rid our state of the illegal alien invasion. Aren't sanctuary cities Illegal???

“Proposition 19 is not going to pass, even if it passes,”

Asinine. I want to come up with other words for this quote but I think this one fits perfectly.

Bring it, Baca.
You work for California. And don't you forget it badge boy.


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