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Baca said the proposition was superseded by federal law and if passed, would be found unconstitutional.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

“If you want to do a joint in your house, do it. Leave the rest of us alone.”
I think that's what pot smokers wanted to do all along.

Baca should not comment on what is constitutional or not. He is a county law enforcement officer sworn to uphold the laws of his jurisdiction, which is not at the federal level. If the people of California, whom many reside in Los Angeles County, decide to legalize marijuana, then he is duty bound to protect local interests. Regardless of the issue, he should be fired for defining what is Constitutional, that is for the judicial system to decide. He is paid to enforce the law.

Dear Sheriff Baca,

Please step down from your position of authority as you seem to have a thug mentality and are an atrocious example to your deputies. You should be thrown to the wolves, you fascist pig.

Thank You,

PS... when you and your goons receive the title of federal law enforcement, feel free to enforce as many marijuana laws as you wish... until then stay the hell of my property or you will be punished for trespassing.

Yes, Baca will most certainly do his job and enforce California's marijuana laws after the vote on Proposition 19.

And yes, if Prop19 passes he's be enforcing a new set of marijuana laws that change the entire game, and - he'd better get this through his narrow little head - it's going to be a different game.

He's certainly jot a job to do, and he bloody well better do it right.

That dude baca gotta go wayyyyy baca...
way wrong dude baca...
that dude baca should go for a job in red
china or communist north korea...or soviet
union...thats what they do...you seem to like
that way...
here...we have a separation of powers...a system
of checks and balances...
baca should turn in and resign...he might not like
it...but...domacracy works.

Lee come over tomy house and share some of the new tabaca and liten up guy,

Sorry Baca, you work for us. The people of CA. And if Prop 19 passes, it passes. You don't get to pick and choose the laws you can enforce. It is absolutely ridiculous that you think you can make your own rules. Why don't you use your sheriffs and all of your resources towards apprehending violent criminals and if you must continue focusing on drugs then focus on crack, meth and heroin...

Oh yeah... and BTW.... Cannabis prohibition would have to be an amendment to the constitution for prop 19 to be "Unconstitutional!"

Cannabis' prohibition starts with the Controlled Substance Act which has barely any constitutional value...

MPP's Legislative Analyst says.......

"[Article VI, Section 1, clause 2 of the Constitution says “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof … shall be the supreme Law of the Land; … Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.” In short, if state law conflicts with a constitutionally valid federal law, the state law is void. Now for starters, not even Supreme Court justices will agree on what the CSA can constitutionally prohibit. At least one justice will tell you a law prohibiting the intrastate cultivation and consumption of marijuana (at least for medical use) isn’t constitutional in the first place. But since a majority on the Court has already said Congress has authority to regulate even intrastate marijuana cultivation, does that mean Prop 19 would be void? Hardly.]"

Chew on that Baca.

Sheriff Baca was voted in by the People of California and needs to uphold their laws. If the Prohibition of Marijuana was overturned by the power of People through their vote then Sheriff Baca needs to uphold the law.
The Federal government needs to trust the Citizens and allow them to make their own decisions. Why is the Federal government going to exert its resources and the People’s tax dollars against a law that the People voted for. The Federal government needs to focus its resources and the People’s tax dollars on issues that the People are concerned with. Let California better their economy through the taxation of marijuana and allow California to elevate unneeded spending through the enforcement of current marijuana laws and the imprisonment of upstanding Citizens who violate these misguided laws.

Prop. 19 is just a rouse to get young people to vote. which is a complete waste of time. There is no point in voting, the govenment does what they want. It's never been more clear. We voted to legalize MJ once already and they overturned it, we voted in gay marrage to be legal, they overturned that as well. I'll pass.

How is it that alcohol is legal and MJ is not. At least MJ does'nt impare your ability to walk, talk, drive. The U.S. is so ass backwards its pathetic.

Cooler Heads: I just read the brief on that Rand study. As I'm not a Californian, I don't know what the proponents of 19 assert, but this Rand study -- as well as others in the past -- are relatively supportive of the idea of decriminalization. Connecting the Rand research with "pain and suffering" caused by marijuana is non-sequitur. Hard drugs like alcohol do, indeed, destroy lives, but marijuana is not a "hard" drug by any conceivable measure. The idea that it will increase traffic accidents and cut economic productivity is a fetid pile of worn-out propaganda. There are no studies in existence, but there is plenty of good theory and anecdotal evidence that completely contradict such nonsense. What destroys communities are black markets, and black markets are not caused by the products distributed through them. Black markets are caused by foolish laws that attempt to hold back the flood of free-market demand. It is the criminalization that has created organized crime -- with all its violence and terror -- not the other way around. In a real sense, the L.A. County Sheriff is an important business partner of drug cartels and gangs. The gangs count on guys like Baca to help preserve the goofy traditions of criminalization which guarantees that their thriving markets will stay black markets and they will retain control and keep all the tax-free profits. I predict that if decriminalization ever gains political traction, the cartels and the gangs will start pouring money into a Republican/Tea Party styled propaganda blitz to frighten dumb Americans into keeping marijuana illegal. They won't give up that cash-cow without a fight.

And this administration is Liberal? Even though I live in NJ, if this Law passed and the Federal Government tries to say the people pf their own States can't vote on what THEY want in their own State, I give up. Free Country my butt.

Next election I see a new sheriff being elected.

Baka which I am sure how Baca is pronounced means idiot in Japanese.
PS. Whoever wrote irregardless is a baka.

What the big picture is here is that most of the people thatare against legalizing NEVER even tried it.See when people get into accidents and blame it on the marijuana US smokers out here are laughing we know the person is full of crap.Its a scapegoat see cops judges lawyers and other people who have never tried marijuana so they say believe the story because they don't know any better.So we have a bunch of people running around who have not a clue deciding whats best.Hey Mr.baca would you change your thinking if the federal government said it was ok? If so what kind of a person are you to change beliefs just because someone else said it was ok....PHONY is what you call it.. Federal government released a report that stated " Most young people caught with marijuana were offered rehab or Jail and understandably chose rehab even though it was never proven that the person was an adict of anything" so see its the court systems tying up the medical facilities with people who do not belong there. So go read your articles about how bad marijuana is never mind the good it can do.Vicodin synthetic opeum, Oxycontin synthetic Heroin, Who's the Drug dealers???? But because the government says its ok then its ok right???? Keep telling yourself your government knows best..Its the coward way of not having to stand as an individual or as a group representing one.

Let me get this straight -- If Prop 19 passes, The Sheriff is going to break the (state) law to arrest people for breaking the (federal) law.

How come he gets to break the law?

I don't think I like the idea of lawman breaking the law. I hope the first time he breaks the law and arrests someone, he gets arrested himself. I mean, that's what we do to people who break the law, right?

I'm so confused :-(

"When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross."

Sinclair Lewis, 1935

I wonder just what laws Sheriff Baca is going to enforce if Prop 19 passes. Is he going to enforce the federal statutes? As I understand it, passing laws to enforce federal statutes about immigration is what has Arizona in court.

Suppose that all the states simply rescinded their laws against possession of all psychoactive drugs - not likely, but for the sake of argument - and told their law enforcement officers to arrest anyone violating federal statutes and turn them over to federal authorities. Anyone want to bet how many of them possessing less than an ounce of grass would be prosecuted? Or less than a pound? My guess is that the cut-off for the feds would be in the hundreds of pounds.
He really needs to get a grip. Can't he find a murder to look into? Or a rape? Some mortgage company that wrote mortgages on homes where the buyers were not properly vetted and then sold the paper? Giving false information to a financial institution is a federal crime.

Ladies and Gentleman, Let me introduce to you a perfect example of a Traitor. Sheriff Baca swore an oath to uphold the law, not his personal interests. He freely admits in this article that if challenged to support the law, which is the will of the voters, that he would arrest and incarcerate them in refute of the law. He defines what a Traitor is quite well.

One of the top law enforcement officials in the country holds a press conference to declare that he won't enforce a law if it passes? Is he high?

A sheriff is saying he won't enforce a law if it passes? How backwards is this? How does he hold that position? Even if it doesn't pass this guy should be fired. He's already made the comment and it shows he has no respect for the law, and he's a sheriff! It doesn't matter what the law in question is.

I don't smoke pot and don't encourage it, but I'm voting to legalize it and expect my elected officials to follow the law.

It's time to call their bluffs!

Eric Holder, AG for a President who freely admitted doing marijuana and more, says HE will enforce Fed law on Californians who choose to 420. Funny, he doesnt do it now. Sheriff Baca claims he will enforce a law that will no longer exist - dare him to. It wont last and he KNOWS IT. Better he spend his time getting his personal mugshot of Paris autographed - WHAT A JOKE!

In response to Cooler Heads comment that "Rand Corporation just published a study that directly refutes all the claims manufactured by the proponents of prop 19." Sorry, dude, no such luck. The study only addresses whether a legalization would decrease the revenues and violence within Mexico by the drug lords there. May I suggest that, as you so succinctly say: "Go read it yourself!"

Recall Lee Baca. Then I'll take up the class action suit against the county.

Oh, really? Then the Proposition system means nothing, or Baca is working for the Feds, not for LA County or the State of California.

The Feds exist to deliver the mail and protect the coastline. They've become insane with power over the centuries.

If Baca is a Fed, he ought to not pretend to be a County employee.

I think it's really time to consider bringing back the Bear Flag Republic.

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