Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Public Safety

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.

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.