Marijuana Laws Will Be Enforced, State Law or Not
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Marijuana Laws Will Be Enforced, State Law or Not
Posted by CN Staff on October 15, 2010 at 17:05:11 PT
By Kyle Sporleder and Carl Foster
Source: Mercury News 
Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says that the federal government will continue to "vigorously enforce'' its marijuana laws even if California's voters approve Proposition 19 which seeks to legalize the drug.Holder insists the Department of Justice remains committed to enforcing federal laws, under the Controlled Substances Act which bans the use of marijuana among other illicit drugs.
The comments appeared in a letter by Holder addressed to former chiefs of the Drug Enforcement Administration dated Oct. 13. A copy of the letter was obtained by the Associated Press."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 if voters approve Prop 19 it would be a "significant impediment" to law enforcement efforts targeting drug traffickers and that the measure would "significantly undermine" efforts to keep California communities safe.Tom Angell, media relations director for the Yes on 19 campaign, derided Holder's statement, saying he believed the letter would actually help supporters of the measure by creating a pushback."Holder is an establishment politician trying to maintain the status quo," Angell said. "The voters of California are not going to let Washington D.C. tell them how to vote."Angell also pointed to a recent letter of endorsement released by a group of 67 law professors in support of Proposition 19, which argued that the initiative was legally sound.Prop. 19 would make it legal for persons 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, to grow it in a private residence and to smoke it in non-public places or licensed public establishments. Recent polls show California voters closely divided over the measure.Holder's letter is the strongest indication yet that the federal government does not plan to let marijuana be completely free and legal in California even if the ballot measure passes. However, the federal government's reluctance to elaborate on how it will enforce anti-drug laws creates a muddled picture for what legal marijuana under state law would mean. There are a number of options federal law enforcement officials could still take with California pot smokers including: Selectively enforce the federal laws on major drug traffickers. Withhold federal funds in an attempt to pressure California to conform to federal law. Preemptively sue the state to block implementation. This is not the first time California drug law clashed with federal law. The federal response to California's medical marijuana law, approved by voters in 1996, provides insight into steps Washington may take. Federal raids were common under the Clinton and Bush administration. President Obama signaled a potential shift in policy during his campaign for the Democratic nomination in 2008. Speaking with an Oregon paper, Obama announced that he would not "waste federal resources trying to circumvent state laws."Yet a month after Obama took office the DEA raided four medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles. Weeks later Holder reiterated Obama's position, telling reporters that the Justice Department would restrict its enforcement to serious drug traffickers.A Justice Department memorandum several months later appeared to reinforce Holder's comments. Issued by Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, the memo ordered U.S. attorneys not to target individuals in "clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana." Apparently ignoring the Obama administration's call for a softer policy on enforcement, the DEA, headed by Michele Leonhart, a Bush-era appointee, has continued to conduct raids on medical marijuana users and dispensaries that are currently legal in 14 states, including California. Last month, DEA and FBI agents raided five medical marijuana dispensaries in Nevada. In July, DEA agents raided the home of 65-year-old Mendocino County, California, grower Joy Greenfield whose operation had been inspected prior by local officials. Also in July, DEA agents raided the home of a couple in Michigan who were licensed by the state to use marijuana, as well as three medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego. In January and February of this year, the DEA raided two medical marijuana research labs in Colorado.Former head U.S. Attorney of the Northern California division Joseph Russoniello continued to prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries on criminal charges. Russoniello has also said he is disdainful of Prop. 19 and does not believe the measure will pass, during the American Bar Association's annual meeting in San Francisco this past August.It is unclear if U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, who is set to replace Russoniello, will follow with a similar practice. "It is premature to speculate what steps the Department of Justice would take in the event that California purports to legalize a drug that the Controlled Substances Act renders illegal," said Jack Gillund, spokesperson for the US. Attorney's Office of Northern California.DEA spokesperson Rusty Payne expressed similar hesitancy to identify federal actions that might be taken in the event Prop. 19 passes. "There is no official agency response as of now," Payne said. "So far, it's all speculation and we're not going to get into that."Aside from enforcing federal law, Congress could also withhold federal funds from the state in an attempt to pressure California to defer to the federal government. A similar instance occurred in 1988 when South Dakota was denied road and highway funding after failing to raise the legal drinking age from 18 to 21.However, the feasibility of this course of action is uncertain as an initiative approved by the voters cannot simply be overturned by the governor or the state legislature. There is also speculation that the Obama administration could bring a federal suit against the state of California for violation of federal law, much in the same way that Obama has done with Arizona against the state's controversial immigration law. Some legislative policy experts have questioned with how much efficacy the Justice Department could enforce federal law in the face of a state-sanctioned marijuana trade.Robert Raich, the attorney who represented California's medical cannabis law before the Supreme Court argued that Prop. 19 represents valid state law that cannot be preempted. "It would be one thing if Prop. 19 required Californians to possess marijuana, but it doesn't," Raich said. "The federal government can enforce federal law with their own federal troops, but it would be a waste of their limited resources."Raich said that Holder is bowing to political pressure from Prop. 19 opponents including former DEA chiefs and Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-CA. California State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, suggested that Holder's comments are simply an overcautious effort to avoid association with softening drug laws as the midterm elections loom closer."They are not a deal breaker," Ammiano said of Holder's comments. "The states decide state law and there is nothing in the Constitution that would require California to criminalize marijuana. They can challenge it, sure, but it would be futile."Ammiano, who previously introduced marijuana legalization legislation to the state Assembly, has recently introduced legislation to implement Prop. 19 in the event that the measure is approved. The California News Service is a journalism project of the University of California's Washington Center and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)Author:  Kyle Sporleder and Carl Foster, California News ServicePublished: October 15, 2010Copyright: 2010 San Jose Mercury NewsContact: letters mercurynews.comWebsite:  -- Cannabis Archives 
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on October 16, 2010 at 14:35:23 PT
I am on the exact same page as you are. 
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Comment #8 posted by ekim on October 16, 2010 at 10:29:45 PT
drew carey on reason
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Comment #7 posted by Had Enough on October 16, 2010 at 10:20:51 PT
Hot Air...
Political stuff is the way Iím seeing it too.The Feds are making a lot of noise...election season???I remember when the speed limits were lowered to 55mph, (the first gasoline/crude oil scam) then years later they were raised again. Well all the authorities went around saying that the sky will fall, but I didnít happen.I view this very similar.The authorities are all running around screeching threats, while serving their masters.The authorities will be too overwhelmed to thwart the voterís will. And Iím sure they know that if they try, and fail, they will lose just that much more power/control over the people. You can bet they are thinking about that.So my guess is, that what we are watching, are nothing more than political threats that will be impossible for them to carry out.Hopefully the voters will get out to the polls...make history...and all will see that the sun will still rise and set as usual.So...Californians...Get out and Vote!!! Vote!!! Vote!!!And take a friend with you...The more the merrier...Soon afterwards...The laws will be changed at the Federal level.************The Fifth Dimension "Aquarius /Let The Sunshine In" (1969)
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Comment #6 posted by museman on October 16, 2010 at 10:01:54 PT
State of Jefferson
Time to dust off those old flags, maybe even time to craft a new one. The State of Jefferson (No. Ca., Oregon, Washington, and most of Idaho) is rising. Attack Ca., and Oregon will be ready.The hordes of cops aren't enough. They are simply outnumbered, and outmatched. Strategic intelligence is in short supply in their ranks. We have a lot of VietNam vets that can be our generals, what do they (the cops) have? Many overweight donut munchers.Time to compose an anthem,....LEGALIZE FREEDOM -and be done with it!
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Comment #5 posted by JoeCitizen on October 16, 2010 at 09:16:39 PT
Political Hot Air
You people are working yourselves into a pearl-clutching, staggering-for-the-fainting-couch frenzy, over statements made by a an establishment politician right in the heat of the election. Were you expecting something reasonable, measured, perhaps even daring at this point? How foolish of you!"California State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, suggested that Holder's comments are simply an overcautious effort to avoid association with softening drug laws as the midterm elections loom closer."Yes! Right!! The Reich wingers already call Obama a socialist and a traitor. They'd have a field day with any "soft of drugs" type statements.I think it's worth noting that (so far at least) the Obama administration has not done what the previous administrations, both Dem and Repub have done, and that's to send the drug czar right into the contested state and have him lie his ass off. Clinton did it with Barry McCaffrey, and Bush 43 did it with John Pee Walters. So far Kerlikowsi and Holder have made pronouncements from afar, but haven't actually gone into California and campaigned against 19 (which as Kaptinemo has pointed out in the past, is a violation of the Hatch Act.)
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Comment #4 posted by dongenero on October 16, 2010 at 07:41:05 PT
prop 19
If Prop 19 passes, it will be a result of democratic process and the will of the people.Something that can never be said for the Controlled Substance Act. 
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Comment #3 posted by runruff on October 16, 2010 at 06:07:58 PT
Civil war?
It has come down to this? That is because the fed [not my fed ] know better than anyone that this is not about a plant, it is about control, power vs. our god given hard won freedoms!I am so glad I have lived long enough to see this. The fed cannot win this. Cali has become their "Tar Baby". The more they fight it the more entangled they get and now they are starting to PO people who don't care about the issue or is not for it and are appalled by the heavy handed gov.Fear not my fellow freedom fighters, we will prevail. Then we will look at the legality of the actions of the fed and the 9 who hide for fear some one might extract revenge for their cowardly, inhuman deeds!
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Comment #2 posted by JiMorrison on October 16, 2010 at 05:27:14 PT:
Democracy Ends Here
I am very sad & disappointed in our fed.govnt., & their Draconian reaction to the impending passage of P19. Dark forces in our system maniacally defend & prop up the drug war, in defiance of all rationality. WHY ? Who stands to gain ?
As we saw with the repeal of alcohol prohibition (aka Prohibition I), it takes action from the states to push the federal government to change its policies. However, different from Prohibition I, Prohibition II has both overwhelming national & international ramifications of the Heaviest order...
Legalizing Pot in Calif., will end Billions of Dollars wasted in the failed drug war at home & abroad, in particular, the murderous horrors South of the border,& the incarceration of American citizens. Nothing short of A Crime Against Humanity, it has gone on for Decades, & has now come to a frightening crescendo.
There is the Real Possibilitiy of Civil War in Calif., if the feds try to override Calif. law, bringing the drug war's ultimate nightmare home to roost. How can Barama./Holder Not prosecute medpot, yet attack the lawful will of the people of Calif. ??
We can only hope that it will not come down to that, but the admin. is up-against-the-wall, w/the election breathing down their throats, & fear that anything as bold as eliminating a 40-yr. old war on its own people, will somehow be viewed as a`weakness' that the Repugs can exploit for their own sick ends.
Where are you, Jerry Brown ? Why not come out of the closet, & bravely speak-up & take a stand with the people, instead of watching the polls to decide your every move ? Another ball-less, Clinton-esque politician, afraid to be on the vanguard for fear of losing votes.
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Comment #1 posted by ezrydn on October 16, 2010 at 04:15:42 PT:
It's about more than drugs, folks
Yesterday's announcement says that if you don't vote along Federal felt lines, you face incarceration. Don't get tunnel vision about drugs over this. This goes much, much farther than simply drugs. News outlets shut down because the government doesn't agree with them. Little Jimmy sent home for writing about the wrong subject. This is the Federal Government attempting to sway a constitutional election by wielding fear and threats to get their own way. I've never heard of a legislative piece of paper TRUMPING the US Constitution. And this, from Democrats! Obama's Bright and Shining Lie: Change starts from the ground up.
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