Holder Says California Can't Stop Drug War

Prop 19 debate gets more heated – and less intelligent

Holder Says California Can't Stop Drug War

The war of words has reached fever pitch in California's campaign to legalize pot. As E-day nears, polls have the prop on the rocks, the feds are saying they'll stay the course whether it passes or not, and the think tanks are weighing in to suggest whether or not its passage would help tamp down the illegal pot market.

First, according to the Los Angeles Times, Proposition 19 has lost its edge in the polls and is now trailing, badly, with 51% opposed to the measure that would legalize pot in the Golden State. That's a rather large plummet in the polls for the prop, which just last month hit a high mark with roughly half the voting population of California saying they would vote in favor of the measure.

What's going wrong isn't exactly clear. The LAT suggests it's the lack of dough to run TV spots in favor of the measure, but it could also be that a raft of public officials have joined the opposition, claiming, in essence, that the sky will most certainly fall if pot is legalized (despite the fact that Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has already signed into law a new decriminalization measure). Chief among the Chicken Littles are nine former Drug Enforcement Administration heads who penned a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder to say that they most definitely opposed the measure, which they argue would undermine the nation's current drug control strategy. (Uh, I think that's part of the point of Prop 19.)

Holder wrote back to say that the feds most def oppose the measure and will "vigorously enforce the [Controlled Substances Act] against those individuals and organizations that possess, manufacture, or distribute marijuana for recreational use, even if such activities are permitted under state law," he wrote.


Holder's decision to engage the former federal narcos was an interesting one – in part since the administration last year came out to direct federal narcos to stop hounding and prosecuting medi-pot users doing so in compliance with state laws. (Although the raids on dispensaries didn't end, it has reportedly tamped down some since then.) In other words, Holder and the feds are stepping up in support of continuing the losing war on drugs. Great position, guys.

Bad, bad, bad position, says the ACLU, which on Oct. 25 struck back at Holder and at current drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, writing that the government's "unnecessarily alarmist" comments about Prop 19 and what will happen if it passes does little "to help foster a balanced discussion of a legitimate policy issue." The decision on whether to pass the law is up to Californians who should be allowed to decide how to expend "scare state law enforcement resources."

Somehow I doubt that Holder will be writing back as quickly as he did when the DEA heads came calling.

A couple other points of interest related to the Prop 19 debate:

First, the Cato Institute has released a new report by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron who has repeatedly pointed out that ending drug prohibition would have a very positive fiscal impact.

Second, the Rand Corporation has also released a new white paper that discusses whether legalizing pot in California will help reduce drug trafficking and violence in Mexico. The short answer – buried in the meat of the paper – is yes.

UPDATE: As the LAT noted in their article about the declining poll numbers in favor of Prop 19, the effort to get out the vote might be hampered by a lack of TV ad buys. Perhaps not anymore. Today (Wednesday), Reefer Madness found in the in-box a link to the Yes on 19 ad featuring retired police chief Joseph McNamara. You can check it out here.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Marijuana
Fill a Bowl for Stickland
Fill a Bowl for Stickland
State rep's stoner past comes out in primary

Richard Whittaker, Dec. 30, 2015

High Profits: Cannabis as Pot of Gold
On the Eve of 4/20
High Profits, by Austin’s Bat Bridge Entertainment, debuts

Marjorie Baumgarten, April 19, 2015

More war on drugs
Should Texas Legalize Marijuana?
Should Texas Legalize Marijuana?
That's what Progress Texas wants to know

Jordan Smith, April 1, 2014

Super (Reefer) Bowl I
Super (Reefer) Bowl I
Pot-state teams battle in game, pot advocates battle on billboards

Jordan Smith, Jan. 31, 2014

More by Jordan Smith
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
Motoreum's Yusuf & Antonio talk about the biz and their reality TV debut

May 22, 2014

APD Brass Shifts Up, Down, Across
APD Brass Shifts Up, Down, Across
Musical chairs at Downtown HQ

May 9, 2014


marijuana, prop 19, war on drugs, ACLU, Jeffrey Miron, Eric Holder, Gil Kerlikowske, DEA, legalization, Joseph McNamara

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle