CHICAGO (AP) — Eight former Drug Enforcement Administration chiefs 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.
The onetime DEA heads plan to issue joint statements Tuesday saying the Obama administration has reacted too slowly and should immediately sue to force the states to rescind the legislation.
The Associated Press received an advance copy of the statement Monday.
One of the former DEA administrators, Peter Bensinger, told the AP that the more time goes by, the harder it'll be to stop the two states. Marijuana is illegal under federal law.
Bensinger, who lives in the Chicago area, said the government must immediately sue the states or risk creating "a domino effect" in which other states follow suit.
"My fear is that the Justice Department will do what they are doing now: do nothing and say nothing," said Bensinger. "If they don't act now, these laws will be fully implemented in a matter of months."
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder 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 would only say, "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 though the Florida-based Save Our Society from Drugs, a national group lobbying against legalization. One of the group's spokesmen is based in Chicago.