US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] has said the Department of Justice will continue to enforce the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) [materials] in California even if a state ballot measure legalizing marijuana passes in November, according to a Friday report [text] by the AP. The measure, Proposition 19 [text, PDF], would legalize the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana for those over the age of 21. Holder reportedly made the comments in a letter to former heads of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) [official website]. Proposition 19 initially received strong support, however recent polling indicates that a majority of Californians would vote against its passage [Ipsos poll summary]. Marijuana is a Schedule I drug [DEA drug schedule], meaning it has no medically accepted use, it has a high potential for abuse and it is not considered safe for use, even under supervision. Under federal law, it cannot legally be prescribed by a doctor.
If Proposition 19 is approved by California voters on November 2, California would become the first state to legalize the possession and growth of marijuana. California had previously decriminalized possession of less than one ounce of marijuana under State Senate Bill 1449 [text]. Decriminalization is the process of reducing the punishment for possession of marijuana from a misdemeanor with the possibility of jail time to civil fines and/or mandatory drug education programs. In addition to California, Massachusetts, Oregon, and 10 other states [Boston Globe reports] have decriminalized possession, as has the city of Denver, Colorado.