Less than three weeks before California voters hit the polls, the Justice Department issued a preemptive message concerning a ballot measure making worldwide headlines.
"Attorney General Eric Holder says the federal government will enforce its marijuana laws in California even if the state's voters approve a ballot measure to legalize the drug," Pete Yost reports for the Associated Press.
He made the comments 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.
He 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. Holder said approval of the ballot measure would "significantly undermine" efforts to keep California communities safe.
An Annenberg Digital News blog notes, "Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and District Attorney Steve Cooley along with former DEA officials are scheduled to announce Holder's position at a press conference outside of Sheriff's headquarters Friday morning."
We know three things:
* Holder called off the DEA last year from targeting medical marijuana operations in the 13 states permitting medicinal use of pot.
* A Justice Department spokeswoman recently said, "It is premature to speculate what steps we would take in the event that California passes its ballot measure."
* Nine former DEA heads wrote a letter to Holder in August, asking him to sue California and prevent Prop 19 from going into effect if it is passed.
Most polls have indicated that Proposition 19 will pass, but a recent Ipso poll might show that the tide has changed. According to the October 2-4 poll, 53% of registered voters in California plan to vote "no" against 44% for "yes."
From the Wikipedia entry for Proposition 19: