Feds on Prop 19: The Answer is Still "No"

Even if it's ok to smoke marijuana under state law, federal officials say they still have their own laws to enforce

Thursday, Oct 21, 2010  |  Updated 12:25 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 21: (L-R) Shelby Chong, Ralphie May and Wilmer Valderrama wait for Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong to emerge from a prop bag of marijuana at their roast at The Comedy Festival at Caesars Palace November 21, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Shelby Chong;Ralphie May;Wilmer Valderrama

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Even if California voters say "Yes" on Nov. 2, the federal government still plans to say, "No."

Attorney General Eric Holder says the federal government will enforce its marijuana laws in California, even if voters approved Prop 19 -- the ballot measure that would make the state the first in the nation to legalize the marijuana.

The Justice Department strongly opposes California's Proposition 19 and remains firmly committed to enforcing the federal Controlled Substances Act in all states, Holder wrote in a letter to former chiefs of the U.S. 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.

The attorney general also said that legalizing recreational marijuana in California would be a "significant impediment" to the government's joint efforts with state and local law enforcement to target drug traffickers, who often distribute marijuana alongside cocaine and other drugs.

He said the ballot measure's passage would "significantly undermine" efforts to keep California communities safe.

If Proposition 19 passes in November, California would become the first state to legalize and 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 of the drug.

Under federal law, marijuana is still strictly illegal. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government has the right to enforce its ban regardless of state law.

Propositions Guide: What You Need to Know
 

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