Justice Department Urged to Oppose Marijuana Ballot Initiatives

Former directors of the Drug Enforcement Administration apply pressure

The presidential race isn't the only contest on the ballot this fall. In several states voters will consider a number of questions about the status of marijuana, most of which would reduce penalties for its possession.

Nine former directors of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are calling on the U.S. Justice Department to actively oppose the initiatives in states where they appear on the ballot.

The former officials have signed a letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder urging his office to take active steps to make sure measures that seek to de-penalize the personal use and possession of cannabis by adults do not pass.

"We urge you to oppose publicly Amendment 64 in Colorado, Initiative 502 in Washington and Measure 80 in Oregon," the letter states. "To continue to remain silent conveys to the American public ... a tacit acceptance of these dangerous initiatives."

Every former director signs

Every former director of the DEA since the agency was founded signed the letter.

Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, Initiative 502, and Measure 80, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, all seek to amend state law to allow for the limited possession and distribution of cannabis to adults.

According to the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) both Amendment 64 in Colorado and Initiative 502 in Washington hold solid leads among likely voters. Last week, a Survey USA poll of Washington voters showed I-502 ahead by a margin of 57 percent to 34 percent.

The DEA letter did not specifically address separate state initiatives in Arkansas, Massachusetts, and Montana that seek to regulate the physician-recommended use and distribution of cannabis.

Helped defeat California initiative

Holder's office previously spoke out in 2010 against Proposition 19 in California after receiving a similar letter from past chiefs of the DEA. That measure sought to allow for the limited possession and cultivation of cannabis for adults. The measure was defeated at the polls by a vote of 46.5 percent to 53.5 percent.

State and local moves to lessen penalties for possession and use of small amounts of marijuana puts the states in conflict with the federal government on the issue. Under U.S. law, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

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