DEA chiefs push feds to take action should California legalize marijuana

The current and former chiefs of the Drug Enforcement Administration called upon the Obama Administration on Monday to block California’s marijuana legalization initiative if it passes in November, according to CNN.

Our Los Angeles marijuana criminal defense attorneys anticipated this move by the federal government some time ago, when we wrote on our Marijuana Lawyer Blog that legalizing marijuana in California could cause a number of challenges for the federal government.
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While marijuana remains illegal under federal law, the Justice Department has not made a priority of pursuing cases in states that have passed medical marijuana laws. But Proposition 19, which would legalize recreational marijuana in California, could force the federal government to take a tougher stand for a number of reasons — not the least of which is that creating a legitimate source of marijuana production within the United States could fuel the illegal marijuana trade in the remaining 49 states and Canada.

Supporters of California’s legalization measure claim it will increase tax revenues, take the earning power out of the hands of the criminal element and reduce the cost of enforcement. Former DEA Chief Peter Bensinger disputed those assertions on Monday.

“Anybody that sells marijuana and then pays tax is going to declare themselves a violator of federal law” and subject to prosecution, he said.

We think that is a real weak argument as far as it goes — unless the government plans to hire several hundred thousand pencil pushers to chase down taxpayers for pouring millions of dollars into government coffers. But it does highlight how at odds the measure would put California with the rest of the nation.

Bensinger joined eight other former chiefs of the DEA in writing a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, urging him to take action against the law should it pass in November. The action, which would come under the federal “supremacy clause” would be similar to the lawsuit the federal government recently filed against Arizona over that state’s controversial immigration measure.

“All of us are very gravely concerned with Proposition 19,” Bensinger said, “which if passed would legalize the distribution, sale and cultivation of marijuana in direct conflict with the Controlled Substances Act, federal law, and treaty obligations approved by the U.S. Congress.”

Late Monday the Justice Department released a statement saying it remained committed to taking enforcement action against significant traffickers of all drugs, including marijuana, but that “It is premature to speculate what steps we would take in the event that California passes its ballot measure.”

The CANNABIS LAW GROUP offers experienced and aggressive representation to the medical marijuana industry in Southern California– including growers, dispensaries and collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call 714-937-2050 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.