Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.

This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.


The Feds to California Voters: Whether You Legalize Marijuana or Not, We're Still Going to Enforce It

Stories like these are only possible with your help!
You have the power to keep local news strong for the coming months. Your financial support today keeps our reporters ready to meet the needs of our city. Thank you for investing in your community.

The Obama Administration this week said they would "vigorously enforce" marijuana laws, even if voters approve Prop 19, which would legalize the drug for recreational use. "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," Holder wrote in a letter to former chiefs of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, according to the LA Times.

Holder said federal Controlled Substances Act will be used against those who "grow, distribute or sell marijuana for recreational use," added the Times. The administration's current policy on medical marijuana, which is to cease raids on state-legal facilities, will likely stay as is.

The letter was released at a press conference with L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, who said “Proposition 19 is not going to pass, even if it passes." While his department is not focused on people lighting up a join in the privacy of their home, Baca vowed to enforce most marijuana laws no matter what.

After the news hit, the opposition quickly shot out statements to the press.

Support for LAist comes from

"If you look at the opposition to marijuana policy reform in this country, it is driven almost entirely by people whose jobs are dependent on arresting and prosecuting individuals for marijuana-related offenses," said Steve Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project. "The only other prominent group is elected officials who ignorantly turn a blind eye to alcohol-fueled violence in our communities in order to pretend they are 'tough on crime' by going after marijuana users who simply want to enjoy a substance less harmful than alcohol in peace."

Added Joseph McNamara, a retired San Jose chief of police, via the Yes on Prop 19 campaign: "As we saw with the repeal of alcohol prohibition, it takes action from the states to push the federal government to change its policies... Passing Proposition 19 in California will undoubtedly kick start a national conversation about changing our country's obviously failed marijuana prohibition policies. If the federal government wants to keep fighting the nation’s failed 'war on marijuana' while we're in the midst of a sagging economic recovery and two wars it just proves that the establishment politicians' priorities are wrongly focused on maintaining the status quo."