September 13th, 2010
04:02 PM ET
11 years ago

Former DEA heads unite against California plan to legalize marijuana

Washington (CNN) - California's proposal to legalize marijuana has provoked every former director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to join in urging the White House to block the proposition if it is approved on the November ballot.

Proposition 19 is billed as a measure to raise revenue and cut the costs of enforcement. An analysis by the California attorney general's office cites "additional revenues from taxes, assessments, and fees from marijuana-related activities allowed under this measure."

But former DEA Administrator Peter Bensinger disputed the premise, telling reporters Monday it will not increase revenue since "anybody that sells marijuana and then pays tax is going to declare themselves a violator of federal law" and subject to prosecution.

Bensinger and the eight other people who have led the DEA since its founding in 1973 wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, urging him to use the federal "supremacy clause" to pre-empt such lawmaking by state and local jurisdictions.

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Filed under: California • Eric Holder
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. GOP Scorched Earth Politics

    Get a life and let the people have the right to vote first.

    September 13, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  2. Shawn-Ga

    Why isn't the administration suing CA? They were all over AZ! Add this to the VERY long list of contrary and hypocritical decisions this administration has made.

    September 13, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    Of course they are opposed- it will affect their budget and maybe their job.
    Pot costs us Billions to fight and has not shown any real criminal element beyond its sale.

    September 13, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  4. lost in america

    just another example at how previous DEA's or any government official that wasted money enforcing laws that make drugs more expensive and always readily available for our youth through dealers and scum. Legalize it, tax it , and educate people, otherwise make alcohol illegal.

    September 13, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  5. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert, but...

    Why would heads be against legalization? Have a nice day!

    September 13, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  6. Robert Dobuzinsky

    The time to end the prohibition of Marijuana is now and i ask you to at least read some of the reasons why.
    1) Marijuana is the third most popular recreational drug in America (behind only alcohol and tobacco), and has been used by nearly 80 million Americans. According to government surveys, some 20 million Americans have smoked marijuana in the past year, and more than 11 million do so regularly despite harsh laws against its use. Our public policies should reflect this reality, not deny it.

    2) Marijuana is far less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco. Around 50,000 people die each year from alcohol poisoning. Similarly, more than 400,000 deaths each year are attributed to tobacco smoking. By comparison, marijuana is nontoxic and cannot cause death by overdose. According to the prestigious European medical journal, The Lancet, "The smoking of cannabis, even long-term, is not harmful to health. ... It would be reasonable to judge cannabis as less of a threat ... than alcohol or tobacco."

    3) Legalization of marijuana would cut down on crime. Because marijuana is illegal, it is difficult to manufacture, and is expensive, so users often have to turn to crime to sustain their habit. Legalization would drive the price down and alleviate this problem. Currently, much of the crime that goes on is a result of territory disputes between dealers. Legalization of marijuana would hurt organized crime as a whole. If marijuana was legal, the entire infrastructure of organized crime involved in its manufacturing and distribution would lose any reason for existence because marijuana would be legally produced and sold at a much cheaper price by legitimate companies. Police officers and suspected informants often face retribution by gangs and drug dealers. Legalization of marijuana would simply eliminate the need for dealers and put a stop to all this. Legalization would cut down on corruption in the law enforcement, the government. Officials will no longer be tempted into accepting bribes, and pocketing large amounts of drug money.

    4) Legalization would free up resources to fight legitimate crimes. It would end prison overcrowding, as many prisoners are sitting in jails for non-violent possession convictions. It would free up the court system and the police and allow them to concentrate on other crimes. Enforcing marijuana prohibition costs taxpayers an estimated $10 billion annually and results in the arrest of more than 872,000 individuals per year - far more than the total number of arrestees for all violent crimes combined, including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Fighting marijuana-related "crimes" is costing us tax money.

    5) Legalizing marijuana would make it safer for users. One of the main reasons why marijuana is unsafe right now is because it isn't regulated, and its quality isn't monitored by anyone. When people buy marijuana, they don't know for sure what they're getting or where it's been. By legalizing, the goverment could safely control the potency of distributed marijuana.

    6) The government has no right to interfere with people's right to life, liberty, and the pursut of happiness as it is currently doing. Smoking marijuana only has the potential to hurt the health of the user. An individual should have the right to choose to use it. People are allowed to skydive, and drive cars. There are risks in those and many other activities, but the government isn't regulating them. Sure, smoking marijuana does put others at minimal risk through second hand smoke and the user's actions towards others, but this is also valid for alcohol and tobacco. When cannabis(marijuana) is enjoyed responsibly, subjecting users to harsh criminal and civil penalties provides no public benefit and causes terrible injustices. For reasons of public safety, public health, economics and justice, the prohibition laws should be repealed to the extent that they criminalize responsible cannabis use.
    I. Adults Only
    Cannabis consumption is for adults only. It is irresponsible to provide cannabis to children.
    II. No Driving
    The responsible cannabis consumer does not operate a motor vehicle or other dangerous machinery while impaired by cannabis, nor (like other responsible citizens) while impaired by any other substance or condition, including some medicines and fatigue.
    III. Set and Setting
    The responsible cannabis user will carefully consider his/her set and setting, regulating use accordingly.
    IV. Resist Abuse
    Use of cannabis, to the extent that it impairs health, personal development or achievement, is abuse, to be resisted by responsible cannabis users.
    V. Respect Rights of Others
    The responsible cannabis user does not violate the rights of others, observes accepted standards of courtesy and public propriety, and respects the preferences of those who wish to avoid cannabis entirely.

    7) It can help stop suffering from many medical conditions.Modern research suggests that cannabis is a valuable aid in the treatment of a wide range of clinical applications. These include pain relief particularly of neuropathic pain (pain from nerve damage) - nausea, spasticity, glaucoma, and movement disorders. Marijuana is also a powerful appetite stimulant, specifically for patients suffering from HIV, the AIDS wasting syndrome, or dementia. Emerging research suggests that marijuana's medicinal properties may protect the body against some types of malignant tumors and are neuroprotective.

    8) During America's colonial era, many of the founding fathers - including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson - espoused its manufacturing for rope, sails and paper. Early settlers also used hemp seeds as a source for lamp oil and some colonies made hemp cultivation compulsory, calling its production necessary for the "wealth and protection of the country."
    Hemp continued to be cultivated in America until 1937 when Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act outlawing marijuana. Although not a bill specifically aimed at hemp production, legal limitations posed by the legislation put an end to the once prominent industry. Hemp production briefly re-emerged in 1942 when the federal government encouraged American farmers to grow it for the war effort. Armed with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) film "Hemp for Victory," thousands of farmers grew hundreds of thousands of acres of hemp for wartime needs. Unfortunately, when World War II ended, so did the government's allowance of hemp cultivation. By 1957, prohibitionists had reasserted a total ban on hemp production. Despite America's bureaucratic moratorium on industrial hemp cultivation, a domestic industry exists and continues to grow. U.S. retailers and manufacturers annually import approximately 1.9 million pounds of hemp fiber, 450,000 pounds of hemp seeds, and 331 pounds of hempseed oil from Canada and other nations that regulate hemp farming. (Federal law permits the importation of hemp fiber, sterilized seeds, and ingestible hemp-based products containing no THC.) In addition, a growing number of health professionals are praising hemp seeds' nutritional value, noting that it's second only to soy in protein and contains the highest concentration of essential amino and fatty acids found in any food. Given the crop's versatility, it's no wonder that hemp has been endorsed by organizations and individuals such as the U.S. Agriculture Department's Alternative Agricultural Research, the National Conference of State Legislatures,
    Thank you for you time on this subject

    Legalization, Regulation, Taxation

    Robert Dobuzinsky

    September 13, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  7. A. Stoner

    Hey, look, man, I'm on the internet! Wow. Hee hee hee. I was gonna say something but now I forgot what I was... What were we talking about? Hee hee hee. Grab some cheetos, man, Scooby Doo is on.

    September 13, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  8. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Legalize it already. It's ridiculous the amount of people in jail for simple possession of marijuana. I guess keeping it illegal will maintain the country's Prison Industrial complex. The country can make so much money if they just tax it. Let's get serious. Alcohol and cigarettes kill more Americans than pot does. Pot even has medicinal uses. You can't say that for alcohol and cigarettes.

    September 13, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  9. scott

    Let me guess, all the Republicans who claim to be for State Rights and against Federal intervention are already Flip-Flopping once again to stop this initiative.

    September 13, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  10. Billy Bob - NC

    If the "states rights" tee baggers are serious about their expressed "big government" concerns... they need to get behind California wanting to legalize pot.

    September 13, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  11. Henry Miller, Libertarian, Cary, NC

    I do not understand why these authoritarian thugs just can't stay out of other peoples' lives! What gives the idiot government the right to tell people what they may or not inhale, ingest, or inject into their own bodies? There's sure no clause in the Constitution giving them that power.

    September 13, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  12. Jeff Clemetson of San Diego

    Love how the supremacy clause works for these conservative clowns to put people in jail, but doesn't sit right with them if it is to give someone health care.

    September 13, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  13. Van Thompson

    The DEA must be running scaried that their 3.4 BILLION Dollar budget is in jeopardy!
    You can not deny the truth it is in plan black and white and yet the Federal Government insists they are blowing our tax dollars on a War they can win.
    Stop lying to yourselves and get real.

    September 13, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  14. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    If you legalized it, you wouldn't have to worry about the illegal trafficking of it. It would cut down on smugglers trafficking across the border. America is so assbackwards when it comes to this. The drugs that can actually kill us are legal, but the drug that is least harmful is illegal.

    September 13, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  15. Hugo

    How about legalization and taxation, why not, cut smugglers profits, boost fast food sales and make people forget why they're so mad, all benefits right? If you cut the government spending, like say IRS, medicare and medicaid for anchor baby families and non-citizens and curtailed Congresses pension plan funding as an example, well hell, you might even balance the budget and pay off a portion of debt. Toke up America, the more you smoke the less you will care about being robbed by your own government, pass the Oreo's please.

    September 13, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  16. Augsbee

    Of course Potheads are pushing for this. Why should they care about??? The worst that will happen to California is that most employees will be high at work and won't get their job done or will have accidents at work and then there's the increase of traffic accidents. Who's going to tell a Pothead not to drive?????

    September 13, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  17. Hall

    California regulations are so stiff on business they might as well legalize marijuana to bring in revenue. The nuts are running that state like our wingnut speaker Pelosi so I am not expecting a recovery anytime soon. Beauty can only take you so far...

    September 13, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  18. Dan, TX

    Exactly why it should be legal nationally.

    September 13, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  19. stevetall

    Yeah. Like these DEA guys have a clue.

    They have once again proven that busting people for doing what they want, as long as it doesn't harm or impact anyone else, will never work. This is America. We repealed Prohibition of alcohol which is far more dangerous. Eventually, the personal use of marijuana will be legalized, so why wait? Face the future right now and move on.

    Don't worry. Those anti-pot agents will find other work.

    September 13, 2010 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  20. Matt

    Give me a break. They need to keep quiet and let this happened. The yields from legalizing marijuana cannot be ignored, and now we're so close. This has to happen.

    September 13, 2010 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  21. lovable liberal

    Oh, please, give it up. Time to end Prohibition and regulate and tax pot.

    September 13, 2010 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  22. pflatman

    Bensinger needs to crawl back under the rock of narrow-minded ex-governmental officials and never show his face again.

    How about a little more propaganda from these jokers? And now, they want to enact a "supremacy clause"?

    September 13, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  23. Gary in San Diego

    DUH! Decriminalize marijuana and DEA guys are out of a job!

    September 13, 2010 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  24. Minnesotan

    Legalize it on the Federal level, tax it, and use the money to fix the economic disasters that the GOP caused.

    September 13, 2010 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  25. mary dale

    I thought by now pot would be legal, it should be. Removing the money wasted to try to stop people using is great, it would also save the money they waste entrapping them, taking them to court, imprisioning them. Let them grow pot, sell it, pay taxes on it and make everybody happy!!

    September 13, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
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