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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)

Reminder, federal law trumps state law. EXTREMELY irresponsible for state politicians, yet alone citizens, to circumvent federal law.
So, do we want a country of "pick and choose laws" ?

Work at federal level for change.

Actually, the State could stop the Fed's real fast if they would just assert the State's 10th amendment rights. As long as all marijuana is grown and sold IN THE STATE and not across State lines the Fed's do not have any jurisdiction despite what they claim. Many other State's have done this with other issues like firearms and healthcare.
Just read the Constitution, it is in black and white. But the State does not like to bite the hand that feeds.
This is propaganda, we are a Republic not a Democracy which is 2 wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner.

so many pot heads commenting. Im against it, its not even going to get much revenue in everyone is going to just plant it or buy it of the streets were no taxes are applied. Its actually going to cause more debt, with more crimes, violence, and problems with society!!!

I bet the people that are saying the Federal Government should stay out the California's state laws are the same people that wanted to Federal Government to interfere with Arizona's state laws recently...

well, afterall, prisons are big money-making businesses in this country. this would cut off some of that feed bag to the big cash cow and then where would they be?

What a tremendous waste of money and resources. The idiocracy at work.

This law will go to the Supreme Court and will dictate States rights for years to come.

Prohibition serves one purpose: To make criminals wealthy. The DEA included. We are about to lose Mexico to drug lords. We Americans (not the Mexicans) are funding the coup. All drugs need to be legalized and sold, taxed and manufactured/harvested under clean, safe standards. No greater percentage of individuals will destroy their lives with substances than do now since the "drug war" has never, ever prevented even one person from accessing the drugs if they wanted to.

they won't raid the dispensaries which are "skirted" the law anyway but when it becomes legalized by popular vote, they will "vigorously" enforce federal law? Man, I don't know how much longer they will be allowed to push and bully people around. It's getting real old and real fast.

So much for this being a "free" country.

We can vote...but that vote doesn't matter if the feds don't like how we voted?

This country is a sinking ship. No one is standing up for their rights anymore. And when you don't stand up for your rights, you lose them.

This article = case in point

Our founding fathers would be DISGUSTED if they saw this.

For God's sake, it is so painstakingly obvious that the war against marijuana has failed and will always be a failure. You can't defeat, erase, and eradicate part of nature. Our federal government spends millions fighting this unwinnable war, and now they say they wish to go against how we vote so they can continue to throw even more millions of OUR dollars down the drain, enforcing a law that we don't even want...a law that doesn't even make sense?

President Obama apparently wants to make California a test case. We thought he might let it be a test of more tolerant pot laws. Instead it turns out to be a test of the federal government's willingness to carry through a failed policy no matter what, ignoring the vote of the people.

Do you think it might just be time to review the classification of cannabis a schedule one narcotic? Do you think it will be so easy to take marijuana away from California? (It will be far easier to convert Afghanistan to a western-style democracy.) Do people's votes no longer count? Is this still the 1930's? Do you want to insure that you don't get another term in office? Has our federal government gone insane?

This points out the obvious disconnect between our government and reality. Very scary. Very scary.

Look forward to the feds trying to arrest the majority of the California population when this law passes.

No need to vote Democrat ever again. If I'm going to be repressed by federal tyrants then I might as well enjoy lower taxes at the same time. I've mostly voted for the Dems in my 25 years of voting but never again. I'm sick of these idiots.

States rights!

A good number of these comments could of been written in Arazona.

When is the government going to figure out the people rule if we vote for so it shall be . The voter said NO to same sex marriages COURT said we wrong. Said no to ILLEGALS getting and education on tax payer dime COURTS said WRONG!!!! Now we are going to say SMOKE it! TAX it! watch the courts say you WRONG

They are just creating Anarchy by all!!! Look at the housing crisis with foreclosres??!! how are they really going to enforce the state of California residents if almost all of them grow, they will need to hire a task force just for California. Idiots

the horrible truth is .. the dollars spent on cell phones and internet... all a waste. hemp is the cheapest high and cheapest alternative to la otre.

LOL... its amazing. The people who want pot legal and now screaming states rights and Fed has no business interfering are the same people who area against Arizona's immigration law. So what is it people.... State sovereignty or not? Or is this just another example of the left wanting state sovereignty for the rules they want passed and not for the rules they are against?

The left is so confused!

Good points by some and rediculous by some. Yes 99% of the people currently use the medical initiative for the wrong reason and most doctors issue cards to make a quick buck.

Everyone keeps saying it won't be enforced by the Feds. Oh it will. And California will soon fail. Why would it not be enforced? The federal laws are enforced by local government. It does't take and FBI agent or DEA agent to make an arrest. A local city or county officer can make the arrest. And the Federal Court will be filled with Marijuana cases, not the local courts.

And even though it may become legal, an employer is NOT required to allow his employees to be under the influence of it. He may soon have a policy in place to take a monthly, weekly or daily drug test before the employee is allowed to enter the facility to begin work. State work comp would not ever be held liable for a person to be at work under the influence to get hurt and have to make a pay out. So now we have a bunch of tweenies who think it's cool to smoke it and/or grow it but uh oh, now they lost their jobs. Even people who are usually younger workers at fast food restaurants will be unemployed because these companies are large corporations who will not want to fail under Prop. 19. I guess those who are unemployed will soon have a job if the law passes.

Hey I'm all for the medical marijuana for the cancer patient or cronic pain sufferer, but just because you go to the doctor at 18 to whatever age and get a card just so you can smoke it is a shame.

So hey, what the heck, pass Prop 19 and lets just see how screwed up California can become, more so than it already is.

So Vote YES on Prop. 19 morons, so once and for all the people will shut up, go out and hug a tree while they are incarcerated at the Federal lock up. And oh by the way, the Federal jail time is a lot longer than the local jail time. Have fun getting high........ (document not spell checked please forgive me)

Drug cartels are paying these guys off!

Funny because technically the Federal Government has NO authority under the 10th Amendment to have any say in the matter, especially if the cannabis is produced and sold IN California. They use the "Commerce Clause" to try and bypass everything and the State cowers because it loves it's Federal monies, which is actually OUR money anyway. Other States have already asserted their 10th amendment rights in regards to firearms and healthcare among others.
We are a REPUBLIC not a Democracy people. That word is not found in ANY of our founding documents.
Go home tonight and read the Declaration of Independence and Constitution and educate yourself on how our government works, the Constitution is meant to RESTRICT the Government not give it more powers, it is limited to what is in that document, they just count on your ignorance.
Both Republicans and Democrats are 2 sides of the same coin, it is called a false paradigm, do not fall for the propaganda as they both are the same.

Most drug "crimes" are prosecuted at the state level so the federal government isn't prosecuting them now. Even if they keep prosecuting the same amount they are now, it will still free up the courts and law enforcement for real crimes. How many people are in jail for drug use wasting their lives and our money for nothing. End the war on drugs.

This is a Violation of the 10TH AMENDMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION (States' Rights).

It states that whatever Laws & Regulations that are not covered in the Constitution are hereby delegated TO THE STATES TO DECIDE.

There is nothing in the CONSTITUTION about the Federal Government making illegal and regulating plants that can be used for Fuel, Food, Building Materials, or for Intoxication.

so the government is going waste its time and our money to go after the little guys with marijuana--it is time to replace all of the government-all the dems and all the reps and start over with a smaller government like the forefathers wanted it to be-

The federal government is going to go against the will of the voters... WOW what a democracy we have, uh? If they do that, it will go completely against what this country stands for. Laws are irrelevant when the majority says so. The government, at least OUR government, was designed to let the people vote on issue. We do not live in a dictatorship under totalitarian rule... so if the government doesnt like it too bad. They don't have enough resources to stop it and will soon realize any attempt to do so is futile. Waste of money, waste of resources. Spend that money more constructively on things we actually need instead of trying to stop a "problem" that's already out your control.

Just my 2 cents

screw the government. this will pass.

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