As California voters gear up for a November 2 vote on Proposition 19, a ballot measure that would legalize the growth, possession and distribution of marijuana, nine former administrators of the Drug Enforcement Administration have issued a preemptive call to the White House: If Prop 19 passes, they say, President Obama should sue.
The Associated Press reports that in an August 24 letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, the former DEA officials wrote that the potential legalization of marijuana would challenge federal authority and merit a lawsuit against the state - much like the one Mr. Obama has filed in protest of Arizona's controversial immigration law, which the administration say contradicts national policy.
"We would expect the Department of Justice to act just as swiftly and for the same reason," the DEA administrators said of the potential passage of Proposition 19.
The upcoming vote has incited heated national debate on the issue of cannabis legalization, and Californians once again find themselves in a position to set national precedent with a controversial ballot measure. If passed, Californians 21 and older would be the first Americans with the legal right to use marijuana recreationally.
Proponents of the measure argue that legalizing pot would allow for increased regulation of it, and that taxing the drug could bring much-needed revenue to the state. But Gil Kerlikowske, Obama's drug czar, argued in an op-ed to the Los Angeles Times that while it would be "impossible to predict precisely the consequences of wholesale legalization," he could say "with near certainty" that marijuana use would increase with the passage of Prop 19 - and so would the social costs associated with drug use.
But whether or not the Obama administration would be willing to intervene in the matter is unclear. The Justice Department has not issued a statement in response to the letter, and unlike with the case of immigration, the president has not made the legalization of marijuana a central focus of his political agenda.