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The Justice Department Talks Trash On Prop. 19

— The U.S. Attorney General has finally broken his silence on Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana cultivation, sales and all manner of marijuana use in California. As I suspected, the feds say they will not look the other way and ignore federal law that bans marijuana use.

Supporters of Proposition 19 seemed to assume (hope) that the Obama administration would treat legalization of marijuana the same way they treated state legalization of medicinal marijuana. Last year Attorney General Eric Holder said, when it came to use of medicinal pot, his justice department would look the other way as long as it was legal under state law.

No such luck with Proposition 19. Read the AP article below to see what they're saying. But as far as I can tell the protections of state law will not prevent you from being busted under federal law if you want to go into the recreational marijuana business.

One of my reporter colleagues told me all journalists should vote for Proposition 19, simply because it would create such good stories for us to write. This latest news seems to show he's right. The conflict between the state and federal government, the struggle to regulate marijuana sales and the decisions of different California counties, who have the authority to permit or forbid marijuana sales ... it will all make for some very good copy and it'll help keep us journalists in business.

Feds Oppose Calif. Prop 19 To Legalize Marijuana

By Pete Yost, AP

October 15, 2010

Attorney General Eric Holder says the federal government will enforce its marijuana laws in California even if the state's voters approve a ballot measure to legalize the drug.

Holder says the Justice Department strongly opposes California's Proposition 19 and remains firmly committed to enforcing the federal Controlled Substances Act in all states.

He made the comments in a letter to former chiefs of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter, dated Wednesday.

"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," Holder wrote.

He also said that legalizing recreational marijuana in California would be a "significant impediment" to the government's joint efforts with state and local law enforcement to target drug traffickers, who often distribute marijuana alongside cocaine and other drugs. Holder said approval of the ballot measure would "significantly undermine" efforts to keep California communities safe.

If Proposition 19 passes in November, California would become the first state to legalize and regulate recreational pot use. Adults could possess up to one ounce of the drug.

California already allows medical marijuana.

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Avatar for user 'Being7'

Being7 | October 16, 2010 at 12:32 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Great! The Feds are suing to "let" illegals roam free in AZ and Nationwide. Now they are going to Witch-Hunt harmless US citizens who have a small piece of a natural plant with healing properties dating back thousands of years with tax potential for our economy. It was even grown by George Washington (fact). Yes, the General on your depreciating dollar bill!
Great idea Obama and Holder: let's make the murdering Mexican cartels even richer with our hard earned money and send it to Mexico, while prosecuting and criminalizing legal citizens in CA at the cost of taxpayers from all 50 states including military members, while it is just fine for college students to die from alcohol poisoning and prescription pills frequently, even though there has never been a confirmed death from cannabis in the history of the world. Wow! I will be voting yes on 19 and see what happens in a supposed "free country" with "rights" by a "democracy" that has "borders". Lets pursue our happiness and peace. It's our God given right.

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Avatar for user 'Tom Fudge'

Tom Fudge, KPBS Staff | October 17, 2010 at 2:37 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

But here's the problem, Being7. You can't just throw out the law. If the Attorney General simply says "go ahead and legalize marijuana in California and we'll go along with it," he's disregarding the will of the American people and of Congress. The law may be wrong or a bad idea. (Let's say, for the sake of argument, you're right on that point). That's a problem that needs to be solved by the political system... in this case the federal system. It can't be solved by deciding to go along with something simply because the voters in one state think it's a good idea. I have to say that the Obama administration has shown tremendous integrity in their efforts to uphold the law. We see this in the case of Prop 19. We saw this in the "don't ask don't tell" situation, in which Obama chose to defend a law that he didn't even agree with. Compare him to California AG Jerry Brown who refused to defend Prop 8 in court even though a majority of Californians approved it. Does he think he only has to uphold and defend the laws he happens to agree with? That's not the way it works.

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Avatar for user 'NightHawk0'

NightHawk0 | October 29, 2010 at 10:19 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

@Tom: I could agree with you about the current administration showing integrity on enforcing the law, but the problem with that is that there are FEDERAL LAWS that they are choosing to not enforce or enforce irregularly - immigration laws.

Sure they enforce it willy nilly but too many stories abound where they are not doing their job. Hence why some states have tried to do things.

(And yes I realize previous administrations failed on this too)

If I were Cali and passed it, my actions would be simple. NO Law Enforcement people would engage in marijuana busts, surveillance, etc.

"Not our Jurisdiction since its not illegal at a state level"

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