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L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca says deputies would enforce marijuana laws even if Prop. 19 passes

October 15, 2010 |  1:12 pm

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Baca said the proposition was superseded by federal law and if passed, would be found unconstitutional.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