Former Heads of the DEA Support the Battle Against Legalizing Marijuana

WASHINGTON--()--For the first time in US history, all nine former Federal drug enforcement leaders who served in both Democratic and Republican administrations have joined together to appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States. The former Administrators of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) today filed an amici curiae brief urging the Supreme Court to consider and stop the serious damage being done by fracturing a carefully constructed national system of drug control—the legalization of marijuana by Colorado.

“We (former Administrators) firmly believe that Colorado’s law legalizing the large-scale cultivation and sale of marijuana, not only is causing great harm to neighboring states, but is in direct conflict with federal law. Under our Constitution, in which federal law trumps conflicting state laws, the Colorado law should be struck down by the Supreme Court,” said Robert C. Bonner, who served under both George H.W. Bush and William Clinton from 1990 to 1993. “Given our former positions leading the nation on issues of federal drug laws and regulations, we are in a unique position to provide the Court with insight into why it is critically important that these States have their day in court.”

“The impact of Colorado’s legalization has already resulted in damages to other states, higher marijuana use by students, higher emergency room admissions and increased highway fatalities due to drivers testing positive for marijuana within Colorado,” said Peter Bensinger, who served under Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan from 1976 to 1981. “It has opened up a bigger market for illegal drug sales in Colorado and nationwide. Marijuana has been sent to over 40 different states from Colorado. The Supreme Court needs to review this matter on an urgent basis before more damage is done in other states and to existing federal law.”

The brief, filed by Mark A. Perry and other lawyers at the international law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, makes the following arguments:

  • “There is no alternative forum that can hear the plaintiff States’ challenge to Colorado’s open violation of federal law. No court but this Court has jurisdiction to hear this case, it is unlikely that any private party has standing to challenge Colorado’s law, and the Executive Branch has willfully ignored Colorado’s violation of federal law.”
  • “Nebraska and Oklahoma have presented a compelling and legitimate claim against Colorado’s flagrant violation of federal law—a violation that the Executive Branch has determined to ignore. It is hard to imagine a clearer case for the exercise of this Court’s original jurisdiction.”
  • “[T]his Court’s intervention is warranted when one State alleges that a neighboring State is acting in a manner that threatens the well-being of the plaintiff State’s citizens. Amendment 64 presents that type of threat: Colorado’s law has already drained the plaintiff States’ resources and imperiled the lives, health, and well-being of their citizens.”
  • “Nebraska and Oklahoma’s interest in guarding against the flow of marijuana across their borders is sufficiently serious to invoke this Court’s original jurisdiction. Colorado’s law—if left unchecked—“gravely menace[s]” “[t]he health, comfort and prosperity of the people” in its neighboring States. . . . Just as this Court intervened to stop States from discharging toxic chemicals, . . . or dumping garbage, . . . this Court should intervene to stop the “pollution” that Colorado’s effort to establish a market in illicit controlled substances is causing in Nebraska and Oklahoma, to the detriment of their citizens’ health and welfare.”
  • “In our system of dual sovereignty, some policy issues are left to the States; some are the subject of federal-state cooperation; and still others are reserved exclusively to the federal government. The federal government made the choice in 1970 that a uniform, comprehensive, and consistent national approach to controlled substances was necessary. That choice has been ratified by this Court, . . . and must be respected by both the States and the citizenry. Principles of federalism, properly understood, therefore support the plaintiff States’ suit against Colorado.”

Complete filing available upon request.

About the Amici Curiae

Administrator     Dates of Service     President(s)

John R. Bartels, Jr.


Richard Nixon,
Gerald Ford

Peter B. Bensinger 1976–1981

Gerald Ford,
Jimmy Carter,
Ronald Reagan

Francis M. Mullen 1981–1985 Ronald Reagan
John C. Lawn 1985–1990

Ronald Reagan,
George H.W. Bush

Robert C. Bonner 1990–1993

George H.W. Bush,
William Clinton

Thomas A. Constantine 1994–1999 William Clinton
Donnie R. Marshall 2000–2001

William Clinton,
George W. Bush

Asa Hutchinson 2001–2003 George W. Bush
Karen Tandy 2003–2007 George W. Bush

About Gibson Dunn

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Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
Emily Carhart, Communications Manager
+1 202 955 8223


Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
Emily Carhart, Communications Manager
+1 202 955 8223