California voters have sided against legalizing marijuana for recreational use statewide. Should Eric Holder get the credit?
That's what one California Democratic strategist suggested to me on Tuesday night after Proposition 19 had been declared a failure, who cited a blow delivered by Holder in the final week.
Two weeks before Election Day, the attorney general announced that if Prop. 19 passed, the federal government would fight it.
The Department of Justice opposed Prop. 19 and would "vigorously enforce" marijuana's federal illegality in California regardless of whether the measure passed, Holder wrote in an October 15 letter to former DEA administrators, responding to their own letter, which in early September urged Holder to fight Prop. 19 by suing California to overturn it, should it pass.
This was the most public and direct repudiation of Prop. 19, specifically, that Holder had issued to date. He had previously said marijuana legalization is a bad idea, which the administration's drug czar had said as well, although the Department of Justice had not publicly commented on any aftermath. Federal law enforcers had said that it would remain their goal to uphold the laws, continuing their focus on large-scale trafficking and criminal networks--which is what the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the DEA have traditionally done.