Archive for Saturday, October 16, 2010

A.G. vows to enforce federal marijuana laws

October 16, 2010


— Attorney General Eric Holder is warning that the federal government will not look the other way, as it has with medical marijuana, if voters next month make California the first state to legalize pot.

Marijuana is shown for sale Friday at the San Francisco Medical Cannabis Clinic in San Francisco. Attorney General Eric Holder says the federal government will enforce its marijuana laws in California even if voters next month make the state the first in the nation to legalize the drug.

Marijuana is shown for sale Friday at the San Francisco Medical Cannabis Clinic in San Francisco. Attorney General Eric Holder says the federal government will enforce its marijuana laws in California even if voters next month make the state the first in the nation to legalize the drug.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law, which drug agents will “vigorously enforce” against anyone carrying, growing or selling it, Holder said.

The comments in a letter to ex-federal drug enforcement chiefs were the attorney general’s most direct statement yet against Proposition 19 and set up another showdown with California over marijuana if the measure passes.

With Prop 19 leading in the polls, the letter also raised questions about the extent to which federal drug agents would go into communities across the state to catch small-time users and dealers, or whether they even had the resources to do it.

Medical marijuana users and experts were skeptical, saying there was little the federal government could do to slow the march to legalization.

“This will be the new industry,” said Chris Nelson, 24, who smokes pot to ease recurring back pain and was lined up outside a San Francisco dispensary. “It’s taxable new income. So many tourists will flock here like they go to Napa. This will become the new Amsterdam.”

If the ballot measure passes, the state would regulate recreational pot use. Adults could possess up to one ounce of the drug and grow small gardens on private property. Local governments would decide whether to allow and tax sales.

The Justice Department remains committed to enforcing the Controlled Substances Act in all states, Holder said.

“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,” he wrote.

The letter was dated Wednesday and was obtained by The Associated Press.

Holder also said legalizing recreational marijuana would be a “significant impediment” to the government’s joint efforts with state and local law enforcement to target drug traffickers, who often distribute pot alongside cocaine and other drugs.

The attorney general said the ballot measure’s passage would “significantly undermine” efforts to keep California cities and towns safe.

Officials in Los Angeles County, where authorities have aggressively moved to tamp down on an explosion of medical marijuana dispensaries, vowed that they would still assist the federal government in drug investigations.

County Sheriff Lee Baca and District Attorney Steve Cooley said at a news conference that the law would be unenforceable because it is trumped by federal laws that prohibit marijuana cultivation and possession.

“We will continue as we are today regardless of whether it passes or doesn’t pass,” Baca said. His deputies don’t and won’t go after users in their homes, but public use of the drug will be targeted, he said.

Both gubernatorial candidates — Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman — oppose Prop 19 and declined comment Friday.

The ex-Drug Enforcement Administration chiefs sent a letter to Holder in August calling on the Obama administration to sue California if Prop 19 passes. They said legalizing pot presented the same threat to federal authority as Arizona’s recent immigration law.

In that case, Justice Department lawyers filed a lawsuit to block the enforcement of the law, saying that it infringed on federal powers to regulate immigration and therefore violated the U.S. Constitution. The case is now before a federal appeals court.

Experts say the two situations are not the same.

If Arizona wants to crack down on illegal immigration more strictly than the federal government, the U.S. can act to prevent police in the state from enforcing the law, said Robert Mikos, a Vanderbilt University law professor who studies the conflicts between state and federal marijuana laws.

If California prevents police from enforcing the stricter federal ban on marijuana, the Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government cannot order local law enforcement to act, he said.

It “is a very tough-sounding statement that the attorney general has issued, but it’s more bark than bite,” Mikos said.

“The same factors that limited the federal government’s influence over medical marijuana would probably have an even bigger influence over its impact on recreational marijuana,” Mikos said, citing not enough agents to focus on small-time violators.


TRUEFREEDOM 7 years, 7 months ago

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k1ngk0ng 7 years, 7 months ago

Did someone forget to tell government officials that it is the people in the government who make the rules. This is a democracy, not a fascist dictatorship. Nevermind the fact that we have been jailing non-violent people over marijuana for decades, or that it doesn't kill you like alcohol or cigarettes do, if the people decide that it is legal to use cannabis, then who is one government official to decide that millions of people are wrong?

The empirical evidence that supports the idea that marijuana should be legal is staggering. many local governments don't even bother to enforce it. Drug addiction is a medical problem, not a criminal problem. Amsterdam has proven that legalizing cannabis does not actually make more stoners. More people are habitual users across the sea in the UK, California and New Zealand (by far) where it is still illegal.

It is literally impossible to overdose from cannabis. Experiments have shown that even 100 pound dose will make someone juts take a nap. Despite Nancy Grace's claims to the contrary, it is impossible for marijuana to kill you. I won't even go into how it causes autophagy in some types of cancer cells, or the innumerable medical benefits, since we aren't talking about medical marijuana (which the federal government also has fought against and arrested users and producers of mm alike), but I will mention that it is a joke that alcohol and cigarettes are legal while marijuana is not.

And let us not forget the people who are currently making money from the illegal trade of marijuana. Wouldn't we be serving our debt ridden governments a lot more by taxing it?

HeraclesQRockefeller 7 years, 7 months ago

"...but public use will be enforced." What? Living in San Francisco, I see people smoking pot in streets in full view of cops and nothing happens! Cops don't care because the smokers aren't causing problems. The cops have better things to worry about. I don't smoke but the rest of the country should wake up and legalize it, tax it, and make money off of it.

IndusRiver 7 years, 7 months ago

This may impact his friends, but it won't impact me or my friends.

Jimo 7 years, 7 months ago

Personally, I'm an agnostic on the issue.

That said, this is merely a swipe against the commercialization of the industry. The U.S. doesn't even begin to have the resources to "enforce" this law against users. Virtually all the law enforcement efforts are provided by the state and, based on polls, that appears about to go away. I was in Denver this summer an observed the "medical" marijuana advertised and sold everywhere - one block off the 16th Street mall seems to have a "dispensary" in every other storefront. Arrests? None.

Politically, this is bizarre. Does Obama truly not grasp why Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters are so lukewarm to voting? Give em nothing and then beg for their votes. Let's see:

Half a stimulus Half a health care reform Half a financial reform. Half a labor reform Half a withdrawal from Iraq No environmental bill. No immigration bill. No repeal of anti-gay bigotry in the military, the government, or the workplace. No break up of the too big to fail banks. No tax reform. No military reform

Democrats have delivered on a few promises but the list of unfulfilled ones is quite long. Why again are voters supposed to rush to the polling booth and vote Donkey?

It's a sad commentary on our flawed constitution that our two party system limits any serious ability to punish both the failed parties. If there's one thing that the left, right, and middle should be able to agree upon is that we need a Constitutional Convention to consider significant reforms. Let's trade unfettered, on-demand abortion for an equal rights provision for women. Let's adopt a balanced budget requirement (with a bona fide recession loophole) in return for the abolishment of unequal Senate seat allocation. Let's reign in out of control corporate money in politics along with strict term limits. In short, more horse trading not less. Our Constitution was born of ugly 18th century compromises; we should remake it with ugly 21st century compromises.

meanbean101 7 years, 7 months ago

"Did someone forget to tell government officials that it is the people in the government who make the rules. This is a democracy, not a fascist dictatorship."

Did someone, possibly your eighth grade civics teacher, forget to tell you America has not ever been a democracy? While this is obviously not a fascist dictatorship there are processes ( Re: the Constitution of the United States) that lay out in an organized fashion how rules are made and enforced. I don't see the federal government violating any of these by enforcing a federal law. Consider toning down the drama a bit- people may take your opinions a little more seriously then.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

What gives the federal government the right to outlaw marijuana?

If states choose to legalize it, isn't that an expression of their right to do so?

Jimo 7 years, 7 months ago

The Constitution gives the federal government ALL authority over immigration. There is no such thing as a "State immigration law" (nor could such a thing ever work in practice).

In contrast, laws about medicine and criminality are the traditional preserve of the States. The Feds can force their way in (and have) but it isn't clear that they should (they're not obviously more competent than the States) nor is it likely to be pretty (are we supposed to hire 2 million FBI agents to enforce what the States won't?).

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

So, I guess you would support completely scrapping the federal immigration laws and agencies, and instead have every state do whatever they think is right.

Which, of course, would mean that if any state decided to open their borders wide, with no restrictions whatsoever, they could do so. Would that be OK with you? Should there be 50 different standards on who gets in, and who doesn't? (keeping in mind that whatever state has the least restrictive policy, that policy would become the de facto policy for the entire country.)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

BTW, that would not be the case with marijuana. States could easily have varying degrees of restriction on marijuana. But unless they want to set up border checkpoints at all state borders, the same is not true of immigration laws and enforcement.

Jimo 7 years, 7 months ago

NO. In this matter I am roughly right and you are precisely wrong.

The Supremacy Clause is invoked by the lawyers because the Constitution does not expressly forbid state immigration laws ... because it doesn't mention the word or concept of limiting immigration.

The lawsuit's claim is based on the Constitution, Art. 1, Sec. 8, cl. 3 and cl. 4, and Art. II, sec. 3, and Federal government exercise of these powers.

Second, there is not and cannot be a state immigration law. Such a law would be in direct contradiction of these exclusive Federal powers and introduce further issues about due process and equal protection as laws would vary by state (restrictions that fall directly on the States).

In contrast, laws about medicine and criminality are the traditional preserve of the States and the Feds do interfere, however constitutionally, with this State power.

Maddy Griffin 7 years, 7 months ago

Time to change the law. Legalize, tax and control.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 7 months ago

What ? "Let 'em go" Holder is going to enforce a law? Inconceivable!

Boston_Corbett 7 years, 7 months ago

Snap, do you really want to get in the position of comparing recent Attorney Generals?

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

I did a little research.

The case that determined at the SC level that the federal government has the right to outlaw marijuana was gonzales v. raich - the argument of the majority opinion was based on the Commerce Clause, which grants the federal government the right to regulate interstate commerce.

The dissenting opinion was that the individuals involved weren't engaged in interstate commerce, and thus the clause didn't apply to them.

How exactly people growing small amounts of marijuana for their personal use affects interstate commerce is not clear to me.

Similarly, if a state chooses to legalize marijuana for intrastate use, and the marijuana is grown, sold and used intrastate, I similarly fail to see an interstate issue.

Boston_Corbett 7 years, 7 months ago

Interesting observation.

And much of the current kerfuffle regarding medical marijuana arises from the fact that marijuana is inappropriately classified as a "Schedule 1" substance under the Controlled Substances Act, instead of Schedule 3 or 4, where it should be IMHO. If it were appropriately scheduled, it probably would be interstate commerce, because big Pharma would be all over it for the $$.

sandawgz 7 years, 7 months ago

California legalized medical marijuana in 1996. Fourteen years later, a fascist republican D.A. from Los Angeles is still fighting that law, despite that 83% of the NATION support it. Now we are on the verge of passing a recreational marijuana law and this same fascist dictator is already pledging to disregard the will of the people.

This guy is running for Attorney General and is WINNING! WTF? Steve Cooley is an enemy to Democracy. He is literally a fascist. You really have to wonder about someone who works for the State and is more interested in enforcing Federal laws.

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