The Obama Administration Opposes Legalization — So Tell Us Something We Didn’t Already Know

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 15, 2010

    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?

    131 responses to “The Obama Administration Opposes Legalization — So Tell Us Something We Didn’t Already Know”

    1. steve says:

      what are they going to do? … march into CA and search everyone…, follow people from dispensaries? hell no. they’re just running their mouths. Fuck Holder!

    2. Matt says:

      I (and the rest of CA and America, I’m sure) will “vigorously enforce” a policy of non-violent disobedience of this threat to storm the gates with handcuff bearing goons-put THAT in your pipe and smoke it (seriously – you might relax a bit)!

      What a humongous waste of time, money, and resources this lame brained crusade has been for the past almost 100 yrs…

    3. William says:

      They think of “consent of the governed” in the same way a frat boy thinks that a drunken stupor grants “implied consent”.

      Lady Liberty has too long been laying on the vomit stained rug of the congressional frat house.

    4. MCI says:

      Next CA Attorney General not interested in upholding Prop 19 when it passes:


    5. Nic says:

      Who is the Top Drug Official in The Obama Administration?

      Let US prepare a special place for that Head

    6. TheMed says:

      Things like this make me believe that theyre making a mockery of our country, and consequently, of themselves. All year long and especially during the times of war and election, federal officials will praise the will of “we the people” and our dear democracy.

      Yet, were about to see democracy fully at work, where the PEOPLE decide what laws govern them, exactly how it was MEANT to be, and what do our dear feds say? “No”.

      Either they respect the result of Prop 19 or they foil democracy.

    7. Scott says:

      Who cares. BRING IT ON! People are sick and tired of your bullshit. The federal government is a joke anyway. What happened to not arresting individuals for simple possession?? It seems from this statement, that they will do just that. I wouldn’t fear them though, California has been breaking federal laws for years. The federal government is too weak to do anything about it..

    8. Skippy says:

      When are the DEA and other law enforcement people (crooked cops) going to realize that prop 19 is a message saying “we don’t want people to be prosecuted for using cannabis, it’s unfair”

      it’s not about states rights vs federal law.

      it’s not about cannabis being safer than alcohol/ cigarettes and the hypocrisy of the law as it is now.

      it’s not about medical marijuana and the health benefits it can bring.

      it’s about the social acceptability of cannabis and the personal freedom to choose what you do with your body.

      they call it the justice department.

      where’s the justice?

    9. Jeedi says:

      Actually this is not bad news. The Obama administration could not remain silent on Prop 19 forever. I have been really surprised that there has not been more of a Federal opposition to Prop 19 so far. But really this is the first ‘peep’ we hear from President Obama and we are less than a month away. And this ‘peep’ is real nonsense when you think about it. Like the Federal government is going to go after the state of California? They do not have the money folks! And I would bet Obama knows it. He just has to say something to show that he is not soft on marijuana to keep his critics at bay; and these statements do it without derailing the movement.

    10. ThaChoppa says:

      We are still going to do it anyway! The government is, has and always will lose this “fight”. Good for Californians to go forth! Unfortunately for Big Brother ,whether Prop 19 passes or not, we are still going to do it anyway with little or no change. The gov will still look like a bunch of fools!