Pubdate: Wed, 06 Mar 2013
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2013 Associated Press
Author: Michael Tarm. Associated Press
Page: A15


Chicago (AP) - Eight former U.S. anti-drug chiefs warned the federal 
government Tuesday that time is running out to nullify Colorado and 
Washington's new laws legalizing recreational marijuana use, and a 
United Nations agency also urged challenges to the measures it says 
violate international treaties.

The former Drug Enforcement Administration heads criticized President 
Obama's administration for moving too slowly to file a lawsuit that 
would force the states to rescind the legislation. Marijuana is 
illegal under federal law.

My fear is that the Justice Department will do what they are doing 
now: do nothing and say nothing," former DEA administrator Peter 
Bensinger said in an interview Monday. "If they don't act now, these 
laws will be fully implemented in a matter of months."

Bensinger, who lives in the Chicago area, said that if the federal 
government doesn't immediately sue the states it' ll risk creating "a 
domino effect" in which other states legalize marijuana too.

The statement from the DEA chiefs came the same day the International 
Narcotics Control Board, a U.N. agency, made its appeal in an annual 
drug report, calling on federal officials to act to "ensure full 
compliance with the international drug control treaties on its entire 

But Brian Vicente, co-author of the Colorado legalization law, said a 
handful of North American countries have expressed support for legalization.

"You have two states revolting and they're saying it doesn't work in 
their state and their community and it sends a strong message 
globally," he said.

U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told a meeting of state 
attorneys general last week that he is still reviewing the laws but 
that his review is winding down. Asked Monday for a comment on the 
criticism from the former DEA administrators, Holder spokeswoman 
Allison Price said, "The Department of Justice is in the process of 
reviewing those initiatives."

The department's review has been under way since shortly after last 
fall's elections. It could sue to block the states from issuing 
licenses to marijuana growers, processors and retail stores, on the 
grounds that doing so conflicts with federal drug law. Alternatively, 
Holder could decide not to mount a court challenge.

The ex-DEA heads are issuing the statements through the Florida-based 
Save Our Society from Drugs. One of its spokesmen is based in Chicago.

The former DEA administrators are Bensinger, John Bartels, Robert 
Bonner, Thomas Constantine, Asa Hutchinson, John Lawn, Donnie 
Marshall and Francis Mullen. They served for both Republican and 
Democratic administrations.

Holder is scheduled to appear Wednesday at a U.S. Senate Judiciary 
Committee hearing. The former DEA chiefs want senators to question 
Holder on the legalization issue.

Advocates of legalization have welcomed Colorado and Washington's new 
laws, arguing that criminalizing drugs creates serious though 
unintended social problems. The ex-DEA heads say they disagree with that view.

After votes last fall, Colorado and Washington became the first 
states to legalize marijuana's recreational use - putting federal 
authorities in a quandary over how, or whether, to respond.

Washington state officials responsible for creating a regulated 
marijuana system have said they are moving forward with a timetable 
of issuing producer licenses by August.

Bensinger - who served as DEA administrator under Presidents Gerald 
Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan - said the supremacy of federal 
law over state law when it comes to drug laws isn't in doubt.

"This is a no-brainer," he said. "It is outrageous that a lawsuit 
hasn't been filed in federal court yet."

Advocates of less stringent drug laws criticized the ex-DEA heads 
later Tuesday.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the New York-based Drug Policy 
Alliance, said the eight are destined to share the legacy of agents 
who enforced alcohol prohibition before that policy was deemed a 
failure and reversed in 1933.

"The former DEA chiefs' statement can best be seen as a 
self-interested plea to validate the costly and failed policies they 
championed but that Americans are now rejecting at the ballot box," 
Nadelmann said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom