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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)

I doubt this law will pass. All the potheads would love it but reality is now you are going to open yourself up to jail time for driving under the influence. It isn't hard to get a license for pot now anyways just go into one of these places and there is a doctor on staff who will write you a prescription for a year for backaches. This isn't prohibition this is something you can smoke that can force others to get high around you. Your drinking at home doesn't get your child drunk or the person next to you at a bar.

Are you kidding?
The federal government is broke, who is going to pay for all the raids on all the stores in the state of California?

U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr..."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 detriment to us (your citizens) has already been, and is still being, done by the federal government making and keeping marijuana illegal for adults. the complication Eric referred to is most likely the severely reduced budget the DEA would get if and when it doesn't get to bust weed anymore.

we must free the herb with responsible regulation that allows safe access for adults or else continue down the failed path of marijuana prohibition.

Ok Libertatians, states rights conservatives, and Tea Partier types. This is your test. Put your money where your mouth is. You want to give the middle finger to the Feds? Here sits Prop 19 waiting for you to thrust your hand upward. The Obama Administration got coopted by the DLC at the outset. So It's pretty much GOP lite. True progressives know what to do in 2010. And in 2010-- primary out every single conservadem and DLC sycophant. That is the only way forward long term. The politicians who occupy the political center can't resist the status quo because they are beholden to the special interests--from big pharma to big prison( that includes local law enforcement and their narco grants); whereas the politicians on the right want to remake the USA into a theocratic land of corporations and peasants--nothing in between.

Holder should concentrate on his pro bono work for the Guantanamo Bay terrorists

VOTE YES ON 19!! Lets show 'em up!

This comes from a guy who still smokes despite knowing all the harm it does. What's the point of states having elections since our vote is moot!! What next - taking away our right to vote???

The Obama Administration is already running scared and cow-towing to Tea Party Puritans by ignoring states' rights and individual civil liberties to assuage the conservative, loudmouth meatheads.

If there going to enforce this law why don't they enforce Imigration or any of the other federal laws they choose not to deal with unless it suits them.

So Eric Holder will 'vigorously enforce' the federal drug law but chooses to ignore the federal immigration laws....hhmmmmm. Does anyone else see something wrong with this picture? He can't pick an choose which laws he will or will not enforce. Enforce one, enforce all. Ignore one, ignore all.

Said it a million times!!!! Your vote on anything means NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!They incourage voteing just to make you think your vote matters on anything! Stop voteing and watch what happens!!!!!!!!!!

Why is Attorney General Eric Holder positioning the Justice Department's power against the power of the people? It seems the right step would be to call for an immediate review of the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and amend the act. This "stay the course" attitude shows poor judgment on Holder's behalf.

Obama and his administration better be careful here. A lot of his votes came from pot smoking Californians and election year is not too far away.

It's Federal law. Well, then why does local law enforcement disband on the Federal law of immigration and waste our resources against a legal state law of marijuana, if approved by the voters? How is it different, if they are both illegal under Federal law? Then why not just let Federal law enforcement be responsible for the arrest of marijuana users just as they have to be the ones responsible for enforcing the Federal immigration law!

If this prop passes as-is, this will open up a massive problem with labor law. For example, the Federal government is conducting background investigations on its employees to determine if they are "loyal, trustworthy, and capable of obtaining security clearances". If State law would allow Federal employees to smoke pot and Federal law the employees can not smoke pot, then how would you answer "Have you used illegal drugs in the last ""x"" years?". To take it to the absurd, if CA allowed us to use aspirin and the Feds banned it, can I use aspirin and still obtain a security clearance? OR, another problem would be random urine drug screens. Test positive for pot, then is Lockheed Martin's Advanced Development Programs ( better known as: Lockheed Martin Skunk Works ) that supply labor, logistics, & support to Area 51 in Nevada for the Senior Trend project ( the F-117A NightHawk ) going to force you off the project because Fed urine is positive but CA urine is "negative"? I can see the lawyer business is going to get real profitable for billing hours !!!!!!!

What prop 19 really is, is a start to reform of our country's drug laws.
Currently the Federal drug laws are enforced using the excuse of the commerce
clause of the constitution. Since via sophistry just about anything can be considered a part of commerce, even growing on ones own land for ones own use, the supremacy clause of the constitution holds that the federal law takes precedence.

So, we either need the supreme court to properly interpret the clause like Sandra Day O'connor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gonzales_v._Raich),
or we need to have congress change the law to explicitly state that the states have the authority to regulate pot. We have over 10% of the representatives
in the House, so there is a chance that we might have some influence here, and I'm sure that if it were done swiftly enough that Obama would not veto the bill.

I'm leaning towards voting yes on 19, but if the Arizona law was struck down by a judge because federal laws trump state laws, isn't it also obvious that Prop 19 will be struck down as well?

As 'vigorously' as immigration law....


Law enforcement is running scared that they will lose job security in a carreer of busting pot smokers despite the fact that legalization would put cartels out of the pot business and stop the violence associated with it. Now that's protecting the public! I guess police are just out for themselves like the cartels. Perhaps the police and the cartels are having a time-out party together over this one.

VOTE YES ON PROP 19!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sounds like more scare tactics. Bring it on Holder!

....and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Yes on Prop 19

Our Heritage--Our Future
Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness
Our Right!!
No Compelling Governmental Interest
In constitutional law, a method for determining the constitutionality of a statute that restricts the practice of a fundamental right or distinguishes between people due to a suspect classification. In order for the statute to be valid, there must be a compelling governmental interest that can be furthered only by the law in question. There never was or is there now a compelling governmental intrest.

Now Is The Opportunity To Do What Is Right
Grant Real Freedom To millions of Americans
Every Politician Promises Change

Here is the real change--by the people--not washington


Don't tread on me

Absolutly YES ON 19
From the 60's ti my 60's
William Conde aka William El Conde De Cannabis

In terms of political signaling, this is great news for the Yes on Prop 19 crowd.

The DEA administrators say: we demand you sue CA

AG responds we will enforce vigorously but passage of prop 19 will hinder our efforts


Unbelievable! Who does the DOJ think they are? Where is the change President Obama promised? This is ridiculous.

I wish we could respond by withholding our tax dollars that goes to enforcing the failed drug war. Which is ironic, considering the government manipulated the tax code to obfuscate the Constitution to put in place the drug laws to begin with.

I'm voting Libertarian from now on. Obama Fail.

This is exactly why I'm not voting in this election, and most likely will not be voting in the future.

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