The mainstream media is in a frenzy over statement’s issued today by the Justice Department alleging that the office will “vigorously enforce” federal anti-marijuana laws in California, regardless of whether voters enact Proposition 19 this November.
Even if Prop. 19 passes, federal drug laws will be ‘vigorously’ enforced, official says
via The Los Angeles Times
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. [Author's note: Oakland appears poised to do regardless of whether Prop. 19 passes or not.]
Holder’s letter was made public Friday.
… 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.”
To which I’d respond: So what? Of course the Obama administration is wedded to America’s failed prohibition policies. After all, it is their policy.
And of course the voters of California cannot change the federal Controlled Substances Act via a statewide vote. Nobody ever claimed that they could.
However, here’s what is noteworthy. Despite the claims of various Prop. 19 opponents that the measure is in ‘direct conflict‘ with federal law or is somehow ‘unconstitutional‘ and would thus be ‘preempted’ by the Feds, at no time today did the federal government challenge the fact that Californians have the legal right to determine their own marijuana policies. Rather, the federal government simply reinforced that they remain of the opinion that marijuana ought to be criminally outlawed — a position that is out-of-step with the American public’s sentiment.
Furthermore, Californians have been here before, and not just in 1996. Seventy-eight years ago this November, Californians overwhelmingly voted for the repeal of a morally, socially, and economically failed public policy – alcohol prohibition. Voters did not wait for the federal government to act; they took the matter into their own hands. And they will do so again this November.
Finally, it goes without saying that the federal justice department — verbal bluster aside — lacks both the resources and the political will to take on the role of targeting and prosecuting the estimated 3.3 million Californians who are presently consuming cannabis for non-medical purposes. These duties are relegated to state, not federal, law enforcement officials. Just as medical marijuana has existed as a legal market in California, in obvious violation of federal Controlled Substances Act, Prop. 19 will too remain the law of the land post-November 2.
Which ultimately begs the question, “If a government’s legitimate use of state power is based on the consent of the governed, then at what point does marijuana prohibition — in particular the federal enforcement of prohibition — become illegitimate public policy?” Perhaps it is time to ask President Obama and United States Attorney General Eric Holder?