US opposes Calif. bid to legalize marijuana
SAN FRANCISCO — US 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.
The Justice Department strongly opposes California’s Proposition 19 ballot question, and remains firmly committed to enforcing the federal Controlled Substances Act in all states, Holder wrote in a letter to former chiefs of the US 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 efforts targeting drug traffickers.
He said the ballot measure’s passage would “significantly undermine’’ efforts to keep California communities safe.
If Proposition 19 passes Nov. 2, California would become the first state to legalize and regulate recreational pot use. Adults could possess up to 1 ounce of the drug and grow small gardens on private property. Local governments would decide whether to allow and tax sales.
The state has clashed with US authorities over marijuana since 1996, when voters approved a first-of-its-kind ballot measure allowing people to grow and use pot for medical purposes; since then, 13 other states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana.
Under federal law, marijuana is still strictly illegal. The Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government can enforce its ban regardless of state law.
Yet the medical marijuana industry has grown, and has expanded even more since Holder said last year that federal authorities would defer to state laws on medicinal uses.