Former DEA Heads Urge Justice Department to Block Marijuana Regulation Implementation in Colorado and Washington
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Eight former heads of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a joint statement Tuesday, calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to prevent Colorado and Washington from creating regulations for businesses to cultivate and sell marijuana to adults in accordance with laws adopted by voters in November.
The statements were issued via a national anti-marijuana advocacy organization one day prior to Attorney General Eric Holder’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“It is not surprising that these ex-heads of the marijuana prohibition industry are taking action to maintain the policies that kept them and their colleagues in business for so long,” said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project.
“Their desire to keep marijuana sales in an underground market favors the drug cartels, whereas the laws approved in Colorado and Washington favor legitimate, tax-paying businesses. Marijuana prohibition has failed, and voters are ready to move on and adopt a more sensible approach. It’s time for these former marijuana prohibitionists to move on too.”
The ex-DEA directors sent a similar letter to Holder back in September, urging him to speak out against the marijuana legalization initiatives in Colorado and Washington, as he had done before the California legalization initiative in October 2010.
The White House and attorney general chose instead to remain silent, allowing citizens in those states to vote without the threat of federal obstruction. Both initiatives won with approximately 55% of the vote, exceeding President Obama’s margin of victory in Colorado as well as the margins of victory by the candidates for governor and attorney general in Washington State.
“The former DEA chiefs’ statement can best be seen as a self-interested plea to validate the costly and failed policies they championed but that Americans are now rejecting at the ballot box,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
“They obviously find it hard to admit that – at least with respect to marijuana – their legacy will be much the same as a previous generation of agents who once worked for the federal Bureau of Prohibition enforcing the nation’s alcohol prohibition laws.”
State officials, citizens and activists remain hopeful that the Obama administration will do its best to allow the two states to implement the new laws responsibly.
In December, President Obama commented on the marijuana legalization votes in Colorado and Washington – framing the conflict between federal and state law as a question to be resolved and stating that people who use marijuana in states that have legalized it should not be a “top priority” for federal law enforcement.
“President Obama said in December that we need to have a discussion about how to reconcile state and federal marijuana laws. He did so because he understands that the American people, starting with the voters in Colorado and Washington, are ready to put the failed policy of marijuana prohibition in the past,” said Steve Fox, national political director for the Marijuana Policy Project.
“As states take the lead on reform, the federal government should work with the states, not against them. The Cold War-like mentality demonstrated by the former DEA heads is as outdated as the Cold War itself.”