Former Drug Warriors Urge Attorney General Holder to Let States Legalize Pot


Today Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) delivered a letter urging Attorney General Eric Holder to refrain from interfering with plans to legalize marijuana under ballot initiatives approved by Colorado and Washington voters two weeks ago. The LEAP letter, signed by "73 current and former police officers, judges, prosecutors and federal agents," reads in part:

The great American political writings upon which this country was founded were based in John Locke's concept of the social contract, which recognizes that the authority of police, and of all government, is derived from the people. And the people have spoken. To disregard the fact is to undermine the legitimacy of the ideas for which our forefathers fought and died….

One day the decision you are about to make about whether or not to respect the people's will may well come to be the one for which you are known. The war on marijuana has contributed to tens of thousands of deaths both here and south of the border, it has empowered and expanded criminal networks and it has destroyed the mutual feeling of respect once enjoyed between citizens and police. It has not, however, reduced the supply or the demand of the drug and has only served to further alienate—through arrest and imprisonment—those who consume it.

At every crucial moment in history, there comes a time when those who derive their power from the public trust forge a new path by disavowing their expected function in the name of the greater good. This is your moment. As fellow officers who have seen the destruction the war on marijuana has wrought on our communities, on our police forces, on our lives, we hope that you will join us in seeking a better world.

So far the Justice Department's only response the legalization initiatives has been a boilerplate declaration that it will continue enforcing the Controlled Substances Act. As Mike Riggs noted this afternoon, Raymond Yans, the head of the International Narcotics Control Board, wants Holder to do more than that. A.P. reports that Yans "hopes [Holder] 'will take all the necessary measures' to ensure that marijuana possession and use remains illegal throughout the U.S." But that is clearly beyond Holder's power, since our Constitution precludes the federal government from forcing states to ban marijuana. The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs—which requires each signatory, "subject to its constitutional limitations," to criiminalize the cultivation, possession, and distribution of cannabis for recreational use—does not change that fact.