Nine former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration leaders have asked Attorney General Eric Holder to oppose possible legalization of recreational marijuana in three states. The November election includes legislation in Colorado, Oregon and Washington state to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
The former DEA leaders said in a letter that there is a direct conflict between federal and state law and that inaction by Holder would convey a “tacit acceptance of these dangerous initiatives.”
But advocates for legalizing pot — including a former U.S. Attorney – say it should be regulated just like alcohol and cigarettes. Legalization also would deflate the Mexican drug cartels that supply users in the United States while spreading violence at home.
Holder was sent a similar letter in 2010 for a medical marijuana measure on the California ballot. Holder opposed that measure and warned that the federal government would enforce its laws in spite of any state laws. Since that time, federal prosecutors have targeted medical marijuana dispensaries in California. President Barack Obama said in 2008 that the Justice Department would not commit resources to try and “circumvent state laws.”
Medical marijuana is legal in 17 states, including the District of Columbia. Recreational marijuana is still illegal in all 50 states. Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan does not support medical marijuana, but he disagrees with the former heads of the DEA, saying that the option to legalize is a states’ rights issue, not a federal issue.
There has been no formal response from Holder.