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Before more states legalize pot, Obama must enforce federal law

Former DEA chiefs and an international anti-drug body advise President Obama and the Justice Dept. to uphold federal anti-marijuana law against legalization by Colorado and Washington states. Why not listen to those on the front lines of the drug wars?

Peter Bensinger, a former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, is one of eight former DEA chiefs who say the federal government needs to act now or it might lose the chance to nullify Colorado and Washington's laws legalizing recreational marijuana use.

AP Photo

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When US Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. testifies before Congress on Wednesday, we hope he finally makes clear that federal drug law trumps state legalization of marijuana.

Voters in the states of Colorado and Washington approved legalizing “recreational” use of marijuana last November. But both Mr. Holder and President Obama have yet to publicly point out that the federal Controlled Substances Act, which classifies pot as a Schedule I drug, is still on the books and worth enforcing.

Because of the Justice Department’s four-month silence on those state measures, prominent voices from the front lines of the drug wars have come forward to advise the administration to uphold federal supremacy in the enforcement of drugs, simply because drug dealers easily cross state lines.

One warning comes from eight former chiefs of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) who served under both Democratic and Republican presidents. On Tuesday, they advised that a federal crackdown is needed soon to send a message to other states that may be tempted to legalize pot. Colorado and Washington need to be stopped before the implementation of their laws gets too far along, they said. Specifically, the Justice Department must sue these states to block them from issuing licenses to marijuana growers and stores.


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