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Even if Prop. 19 passes, federal drug laws will be 'vigorously' enforced, official says

Holder The nation's top federal law enforcement official said the Obama administration would "vigorously enforce" drug laws against people who grow, distribute or sell marijuana for recreational use even if California voters pass a measure to legalize it.

U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., in a letter sent Wednesday to nine former chiefs of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, wrote, "Let me state clearly that the Department of Justice strongly opposes Proposition 19. If passed, this legislation will greatly complicate federal drug enforcement efforts to the detriment of our citizens."

The initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot would allow Californians 21 and older to grow up to 25 square feet and possess up to an ounce of marijuana. It also allows cities and counties to authorize cultivation and sales. Several cities, including Oakland, appear poised to do so if the law passes.

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

Holder's letter was made public Friday. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca is hosting a news conference at his headquarters Friday morning to draw attention to the letter.

Possession and sales of marijuana are illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. In his letter, Holder wrote: "We will vigorously enforce the CSA against those individuals and organizations that possess, manufacture or distribute marijuana for recreational use, even if such activities are permitted under state law."

Dale Sky Jones, a spokeswoman for the Prop. 19 campaign, said the federal government is continuing to enforce "a failed policy."

"We're not necessarily surprised that the establishment is coming down on the side of the status quo. ... If the federal government is going to disregard the voters, this is a states' right issue."

President Obama has said that he is opposed to legalizing marijuana, but his administration has ended prosecutions of medical marijuana collectives and patients that abide by state laws, in effect ignoring the Controlled Substances Act. California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, and agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration targeted the state's dispensaries and collectives for years. They have continued to bust large-scale growers.

The administration has come under criticism from the initiative's opponents for not doing enough to try to defeat it. Last week, Mexico's president, Felipe Calderon, chided the Obama administration. The nation's drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, has spoken out about the initiative and said there is no doubt about where the administration's stands. On Thursday, his office issued a news release highlighting a survey released a month ago that showed teens are starting to use marijuana at an earlier age, 17 years old in 2009 as opposed to 17.8 years old in 2008.

Californians are split on the issue. Polls have consistently shown that marijuana legalization is supported by about half of the state's electorate.

-- John Hoeffel

Photo: U.S. Atty. General Eric H. Holder Jr. speaks at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. Credit: Getty Images

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

Proposition 19: California's marijuana legalization debate


Comments () | Archives (406)

Just to take up on the challenge The People of California Vs. Obama and Holder, I'll vote yes on Prop 19, and hope that it will pass. I had no opinion regarding this issue before, but now it has turned into a vote to protest. Bring it on!

The feds might be able to suppress commercial production and distribution of cannabis in California. They might be able to bust enough people to scare the rest away from commercial applications. What will that accomplish? A huge boon for the hydroponics supply industry and millions of Californians growing cannabis in their basements, attics, spare bedrooms, and closets.

Will the feds be able to hire a new army of DEA agents to take over local policing duties in the nation's most populous state? In this economy? I highly doubt it.

Obama wants to get reelected. He wants to maximize the number of Democrats who get reelected as well. If he favored Prop 19, Republicans would have a field day and further destroy his and his party's already waning credibility. It's politics; it's a game. He doesn't necessarily disagree with Prop 19. He cannot realistically support it publically from his position.

Obama wants to focus on more important things and if he came out in favor of Prop 19 it would be a political suicide nationally. Obama would be assailed into utter impotence buried underneath a right wing assault.

Look beyond our own community. The country is a much broader region with much bigger problems than Prop 19. By taking a pro-Prop 19 position, the Republicans tear Obama apart and keep him away from those more important issues. Obama wants to serve the greater good, not just California.

So the Feds are going to reassign their agents to the enforcement of federal anti-marijuana laws in California. Are those the agents who currently are trying to enforce anti-corruption matters, terrorist activities, airport security, etc. ? What we need more of are CHP officers to nab drivers who are high. Prop 19 isn't evil.

Sarah Palin: “If we’re talking about pot, I’m not for the legalization of pot,” Palin said, as Politico first noted. “I think that would just encourage especially our young people to think that it was OK to just go ahead and use it.”

just let people smoke it who cares ???? look they tried to do that with Alcohol and look you can buy it now in the grocery stores ?? so come on ease up

Don't these clowns in Washington have better things to be concerned with? Try safe-guarding the border, or bust some pedophiles. Stop wasting precious law enforcement dollars on people smoking a pot. This administration is beyond pathetic!

YES on 19

Growing pot here would be like Mexico growing pot. Soon you would have the same problems on the street as Mexico has. It's better to keep the drugs out of this country or we will end up with drug cartels in our back yard!

VOTE YES ON 19 !!! Even if it is a confused law that is the point... let's see the feds strugle with enforcing the slave/ military policies they have been enforcing under Emergency powers/ Executive orders under Abraham Lincoln and Then FDR trading with the enemy act... taking the gold... control all substance this is the true goal of all politics the $ is just a decoy for the slaves and the Constitution is not in effect since war time emergency powers have been in effect and took us off the gold standard... People are the true value and cannabis is The biggest renewable sustainable agricultural commodity left in the usA lets start the hemp crops and build sustainable agriculture policies only thing to revive the republic ...oh yeah what is the republic We the people have lost sight of who and what we are Freedom is not free we have to fight for it and even if I dont believe in voting because we are not The "Electoral college of electors" are the ones that actually determine who will be President - not any popular vote, poll, media, or statistic. go to USAvsus.info to really see what happened to the true America and how it has been replaced by the Bankers/Corporation/US...Make Yes on 19 Happen and this will be the shot heard around the world the first crack in the Demonicrasy Repugnicants death toll! revive the true de jure Republic! ...Yes on 19 !!!!!!!!!

What, you think billionaire drug cartel leaders don’t contribute money to politicians on both sides of the border. If you met a billionaire cartel leader you would not even know it. They look and behave like average rich people.

Hey no cares if it is legal, they are still going to smoke and grow. If You continue to criminalize it You will send people to buy it from some DRUG dealer who does not care about age, and may even ask you if you would like some coke with it or a little Black Tar Heroin. It would be better to have it structured and watched, right now it easier to buy weed then alcohol for someone under age, why?????? Because it is regulated. Or is it that We need to keep the Prison system full of people who get caught with weed, so we don't have room for the person who rapes some poor innocent child. Lets put all the money all the money we use to enforce so archaic weed laws into schools, or even protecting our boarder?????? Why protect the boarders? Weed comes across in mass quantities from Mexico, does the government care about that? No, the drug trade is big money for the US Government. When will they figure it out? Hey buy the way I don't even smoke the stuff I just hate the fact the government lets people drink,die from liver disease, hey have a smoke while we talk about all this, smoke in some lung cancer, They say that is okay, how do we tax payers spend on medical bills for people who smoke and drink? Damn get real Pot is here to stay and it is very profitable for the illegal growers, thanks to Uncle Sam. Keep it Illegal so some Drug dealer can make lots of money and turn Your kid on to some hard stuff when they goto buy some weed.

Wait a sec...I am all for the legalization in California. BUT-

What percentage of cannabis grown in Cal be exported to other states?

Will Cal become the new Mexico as a source of pot and its trafficking???

Will there be Cal cartels?

C'mon y'all...

Let's have a good stiff drink and consider this thoroughly.

Pure idiocy on the part of the federal government. Way to go, Holder, spend countless millions (billions?) on a drug war that has always been destined for failure, and fail it will.

So...even tho the citizenry of the state of California chooses to progress beyond the 19th century, you will drag them back?
What an idiot.

Come ON! Shut up Obama administration. I'd bet my bottom dollar you're smoking a J right now. The only reason this is the White Houses position on this is because of mid-term elections.

Lame! Ummm time for another Civil War?

Sadly it is true. Even if we pass this bill, it will never become effective because the Feds and the courts don't give a flying fig what the people actually want. They do it over and over again. Two propositions come to mind: Prop 187 and Prop 8, but that’s just off the top of my head. They have insinuated themselves into every aspect of our lives to command and control us. I know this is a horribly generalized statement, but there isn’t room here to go into much detail. Check it out yourselves if you doubt this. But I digress.

Be it by neglect or intent, we have let the proverbial tail become accustomed to wagging the dog, and the tail likes its new job. So what to do? We can shout, swear, and shake our heads and then go about our business. We can blog. We can up our Prozac doses. We can take to the streets. Or, in a mere 20 days, we can take our displeasure to their very doorsteps.

Nineteen judges are on my sample ballot. They either want to be elected or they want their appointments confirmed. I could find nothing on the web about how these folks actually perform. In fact, I couldn’t even find much about who the heck they are! And these people are RUNNING OUR LIVES FROM THE BENCH!!!

I am voting against confirming anyone. I am voting against all incumbents. I am voting for anything that has even the slightest chance of reining them in (like Prop 20) and against anything that could possibly give them any more power (like Prop 25) or money (like Prop 21). I am telling them I don’t like what they’re doing, and if they don’t start showing a little respect for those they supposedly serve, this particular dog is going to get his tail bobbed.

Political strategery: This is great, if holder feels that he can pretend to oppose this law (to appease conservative voters), then he believes that it'll pass comfortably. Goooooo POT!

So in other words our government is against the will of the people.
This is all a scam to keep alcohol and the pharmaceuticals in the drivers seat.
And this is another backpedaling by the Obahama administration.
He said he would not waste federal resources harassing marijuana
I still want the same health care as he and the senators have. Do you remember that promise?

As much as I admire this law (and I do intend to vote for it) federal law trumps state law..that's that. Arizona immigration bill didn't go through. It kinda sucks, but that is just what the constitution says.

So the federal government is not respecting state laws....that's a surprise. ha

Ahem... um, then why is alcohol legal?

If I remember my history correctly back in the early 1900's Hemp was grown in Nebraska, Missouri & Kansas grew it to make Hemp rope. It was outlawed and taken
off the market sometimes around WW II. As most pot head remember it grows wild in the area and the Hippies used to travel back and forth picking plants along the way. Since it was outlawed by the Federal
goveremetn I wonder how a state will be able to circumvent the Federal laws?

You can't have things both ways.

On Prop 19, California says how dare the FEDs dictate our right to cultivate and possess. "WE" are going to fight the federal goons. But then on Prop 8 say how dare the state voters approve some policy you don't like and ask/DEMAND Federal courts interject and over-rule the CA state voters.

Aren't both of these issues on California voting ballets and voted on by California voters? Stick to one side of the policy.

once again Holder demonstrates how he speak boldly about something he does not have a clue about......Mr. holder, if I were the president I would have fired you long ago.....maybe about the time you soap boxed about the AZ immigration bill with out even having the sence to read it before going to testify at capitol hill.....maybe you ware better suited as a public defender

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