Federal law enforcement agencies intend to aggressively go after marijuana possession and cultivation even if California voters vote in favor of legalization in a November 2 referendum, US newspapers reported.
The reports cited a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder to former chiefs of the Drug Enforcement Administration vowing no let up in enforcement of marijuana laws.
"Let me state clearly that the Department of Justice strongly opposes Proposition 19. If passed, this legislation will greatly complicate federal drug enforcement efforts to the detriment of our citizens," it said.
Holder did not spell out exactly how he will proceed but said the Justice Department was "considering all available legal and policy options," and intended to "aggressively enforce" federal drug laws.
The use of medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996, but Proposition 19 would permit the state's counties and municipalities to authorize the cultivation, transportation and sale of marijuana, and to tax it like tobacco and alcohol.
The proposition will be put to voters in a referendum during the upcoming mid-term legislative elections on November 2.
A slender majority of Californians support the proposition, according to the latest polls.
Moreover, the measure has been defended by California officials, who argue that the indirect costs in police and prisons needed to enforce a marijuana ban are too high for the fiscally strapped state.