Nine former Drug Enforcement Administration chief has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to publicly oppose a controversial ballot initiative in California that would legalize the production, possession and sale of marijuana in that state.
In an Aug. 24 letter to Holder, the former Republican and Democratic DEA administrators, dating back to the Nixon era, expressed their “grave concern” over Proposition 19, the 2010 Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act. The initiative, which Californians will consider on Nov. 2, also would allow the debt-ridden state to collect taxes on the production and sale of marijuana. The former DEA chiefs urged the Justice Department to assert the Supremacy Clause in the U.S. Constitution, as it did in its recent lawsuit against Arizona’s new immigration law. That clause, found in Article VI, affirms that federal law trumps state law when the two are in conflict.
“While the California ballot initiative has not yet been approved by voters … it would be in the public interest to be aware of the law and where the Department of Justice would stand if this proposition passed,” the letter stated. The authors argued the Supremacy Clause would void Proposition 19 if voters approved the measure, because Prop 19 violates the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, a federal law that renders manufacture, distribution and improper use of marijuana illegal.