Unlike in 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder Stays Silent on Marijuana Legalization

Scapegoats were readily available when California voters missed their chance to live in the first state to legalize marijuana for adults in 2010. While some blamed the medical marijuana supporters who opposed Proposition 19 — which led some in some pre-election polls, at 52 percent — there was also interference from Washington.

It was Attorney General Eric Holder who delivered Tax and Control Cannabis' October surprise. At the request of former heads of the DEA, Holder issued to an overeager California (Oakland was preparing to license and tax 100,000-square-foot grow facilities) a letter promising federal law outlawing cannabis would be “vigorously enforced.” The subsequent chilling effort killed Prop. 19's momentum and sent it to defeat, 52 percent to 47 percent (a better showing than Meg Whitman, but still).

Now, two years later, three states will try do to what California couldn't. In response to the legalization efforts on the ballot in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, the same former DEA heads wrote to Holder again, asking him to warn off legalization a second time. But as of midnight Tuesday, cannabis advocates note, the attorney general's stayed mum. 

Why the silence at a crucial hour, with arguably more — such as the presidency — at stake?

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