Eight ex-DEA chiefs urge action against Colo. and Wash. pot laws

Greg Campbell | Contributor

As U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder prepares to attend a Senate judiciary committee hearing Wednesday, a group of former Drug Enforcement Agency administrators have called on him to bring the hammer down on Colorado and Washington, the two states whose citizens in November voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

They want the government to sue the states and nullify the laws on the grounds that they conflict with federal law. Marijuana is illegal at the federal level.

Their statement was made the same day the United Nations also urged the White House to act against Colorado and Washington, saying that they violate international drug treaties.

Holder is believed to be close to deciding on how to respond to the pot legalization votes. Last week, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said the feds were in the delicate position of having to enforce an increasingly unpopular law prohibiting marijuana on the federal level, and the democratic votes of two states abolishing prohibition on the state level.

The Obama administration has so far done nothing about the new laws, and the former DEA chiefs say that they become harder to challenge with each passing day.

“My fear is that the Justice Department will do what they are doing now: do nothing and say nothing,” former DEA administrator Peter Bensinger told the Associated Press. “If they don’t act now, these laws will be fully implemented in a matter of months.”

Bensinger added that if the laws are allowed to stand unchallenged, it could create a domino effect in other states.

That, of course, is exactly what marijuana advocates wish to see happen. The Marijuana Policy Project characterized the statement as the last gasp of a dying regime of prohibitionists.

“It is not surprising that these ex-heads of the marijuana prohibition industry are taking action to maintain the policies that kept them and their colleagues in business for so long,” said MPP communications director Mason Tvert, in a statement. “Their desire to keep marijuana sales in an underground market favors the drug cartels, whereas the laws approved in Colorado and Washington favor legitimate, tax-paying businesses.

“Marijuana prohibition has failed,” he said, “and voters are ready to move on and adopt a more sensible approach. It’s time for these former marijuana prohibitionists to move on too.”

The former DEA chiefs hope senators will press Holder on the marijuana issue when he appears before the Senate committee.

The former drug agency administrators are part of a group called “Save Our Society From Drugs.” Collectively, they served from 1973-2003 in both Democratic and Republican administrations. They include Bensinger, John Bartels, Robert Bonner, Thomas Constantine, Asa Hutchinson, John Lawn, Donnie Marshall and Francis Mullen.

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