Federal Government Announces it Will Enforce Federal Marijuana Laws if Proposition 19 the “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010” Passes
If California voters adopt Proposition 19 on November 2, 2010, California will be the first state in the nation to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Marijuana, whether for recreational use or medical use, remains an illegal substance under the Federal Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”). In an October 13th letter to former chiefs of the U.S. Drug Administration Agency, Attorney General Eric Holder stated the Federal Government will continue to enforce its marijuana laws in California, even if Proposition 19 passes.
According to Holder’s letter, “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.” The Attorney General also said, “If passed, this legislation will greatly complicate federal drug enforcement efforts to the detriment of our citizens.”
This letter may suggest a potential departure from the Administration’s position of not prosecuting medical marijuana users in compliance with state law, as set forth in an October 19, 2009 letter from the Department of Justice (“DOJ”). While the DOJ expressed its commitment to the enforcement of the CSA in all states, it explicitly told Federal prosecutors that the Department’s priorities should not focus on “individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”
With the Federal government’s stated opposition to Proposition 19, and the intent to enforce the CSA, local governments face an even bigger challenge of trying to comply simultaneously with State law and Federal law.ShareThis