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December 9, 2011

In "Fast and Furious" grilling, AG Holder talks about federal marijuana prosecution policy

This new Huffington Post entry, headlined "Federal Interference In State Medical Marijuana Laws Is A Low Priority, Attorney General Affirms," notes the brief discussion of federal marijuana prosecution policy during the congressional hearing with Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday. Here are the highlights:

Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday reiterated the Justice Department's support for the Ogden memo, which in 2009 declared that the sale and use of medical marijuana in states where it's legal are a low priority for federal prosecutors.

"What we said in the memo we still intend, which is that given the limited resources that we have, and if there are states that have medical marijuana provisions ... if in fact people are not using the policy decision that we have made to use marijuana in a way that's not consistent with the state statute, we will not use our limited resources in that way," Holder said.

The comments came in response to a question from Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) during a hearing on the Justice Department's flawed and discredited gun-sting program. Polis also asked about the recent federal crackdown on medical marijuana shops in California, where U.S. attorneys have closed hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries in just two months' time. She questioned whether Colorado could expect to get different treatment.

"It's my understanding," Polis said, "[California] did not have a functional state-level regulatory authority. Colorado does have an extensive state regulatory and licensing system for medical marijuana, and I'd like to ask whether our thoughtful state regulation ... provides any additional protection to Colorado from federal intervention."

Holder's response, though vague, offered Polis some assurance, while seeming to suggest that state-level regulation in California is inadequate. "Where a state has taken a position, has passed a law and people are acting in conformity with the law -- not abusing the law -- that would not be a priority with the limited resources of our Justice Department," Holder said.

December 9, 2011 at 08:41 AM | Permalink


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Holder has it about half right.

In light of the Supremacy Clause, there is no such thing as federal "interference" with contrary state law. The state can declare dope (or cocaine or meth or Jim Crow or what have you) legal, but if under federal law it's NOT legal, that is the end of the game until federal law changes.

On the other hand, if the Attorney General wishes to emphasize one area of enforcement and de-emphasize others, that is his choice to make. As they say, elections have consequences.

For the same reasons, he may choose to give a pass to a state that enforces its own law, while going after one that doesn't.

California is the latter. Although its "medical" marijuana law promised stringent safeguards to limit availability to medical use, those "safeguards" are, in practice, pure fiction, as Holder and the US Attorneys correctly discern (and as is not plausibly disputed).

Californians have the option of adopting a state law purporting to make dope legal for recreational, and not strictly medical, purposes. Indeed, they voted on that question 13 months ago, and decided AGAINST general availability (doing so 53.5% to 46.5% -- exactly Obama's national margin). That being the case, the routine, indeed all but open, flouting of the restrictions on "medical" marijuana virtually invite federal action. This is true even where, as here, the present AG is otherwise disinclined toward pursuing that option.

The problem here, if you want to call it that, has been created by those Californians who want recreational use, lost the Prop 19 battle to try to get it legally, but insist on having their way anyway by lying about their non-existent "medical" needs. (Of course they are abetted by enablers who accept or even solicit those lies).

If we want a society in which people can do whatever they want irrespective of the law, it's easy to find one. It's called the J-U-N-G-L-E. The social contract, by contrast, requires those living under it to abide by the rules until they peacably change them. If they won't follow that basic discipline -- the discipline upon which the rule of law itself depends -- they invite actions like those being undertaken by the California US Attorneys, now openlly supported by Mr. Holder.

To sum it up in a word, what DOJ is actually doing is using federal law to enforce the judgment the California majority rendered by defeating Prop 19.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 9, 2011 10:04:32 AM

Wondering whether or not it may be wise to maintain your affiliation to any one of the estimated sixteen currently-active Mexican Drug Cartels? Then maybe you should consider the following information very carefully:

As a gesture of good will vis-à-vis cross-border relations, key members of the American Federal Government have recently pledged a solemn oath, declaring a continuation of their willingness to encourage people like yourself to increase performance and productivity. In particular, the United States Department of Justice will guarantee you achieve a respectful level of technology in both military grade weapons and equipment while actively facilitating the laundering of that swirling cascade of cash that a business like yours invariably and continually generates.

Still not convinced that during prohibition the phenomenal benefits of remaining an international drug criminal far outweigh the remotely possible, negative consequences? Here's another recent DOJ announcement, and this time written personally by their principal corporate attorney who's main priority is keeping himself out of jail:

"For nearly three years, I have been privileged to work closely with many of the most ruthless organizations to the south of our border. I am extremely proud of our record of abuse, fraud, waste and misconduct, and I pledge a continuation of all such policies that will further weaken our national security and compromise all honest efforts of law enforcement."
- Attorney General Holder.

Some people, it appears, have absolutely no problem being simultaneously absurd and very evil.

Must we wait for a complete economic collapse to regain our "unalienable­" rights?
Or is it high time we all stood up and told our government that we're pooped at being beaten and jailed in order that unconscionable Transnational Corporations can continue to addict & poison us for obscene profits?

"I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you."
- Friedrich Nietzsche

Posted by: malcolm kyle | Dec 9, 2011 12:20:26 PM

That seems just a tad overboard, no? In my understanding, it is not that unusual for law enforcement to monitor or probe criminal networks for some time before exposing themselves, in order to try to get to the root of the network. This is a dirty business and can require unseemly tradeoffs. Maybe some poor judgment was used here, but the above response seems more than a little overwrought, and one has to wonder if it is driven more by general ideological objections to the current administration than by facts/policy/reality.

Posted by: Anon | Dec 9, 2011 2:39:43 PM

There is a problem with these elaborate sting operations. They seem to foster corruption and bluring of the lines between law breaker and law enforcer. If law enforcement engages in extensive dishonesty ond deception in order to make a case, it tends to become a way of life. The entire system becomes corrupt. This is in response to the comments, but is not related to the post I fear.

Posted by: beth | Dec 9, 2011 3:53:07 PM


I'm with you.

"They seem to foster corruption and bluring of the lines between law breaker and law enforcer. If law enforcement engages in extensive dishonesty ond deception in order to make a case, it tends to become a way of life. The entire system becomes corrupt."

Exactly. This is what history teaches us. The root cause of the problem is our excessive thirst for justice. Sometimes it's better to let the bad guys win a battle or two instead of losing the whole damn war.

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Posted by: tm | Dec 10, 2011 3:17:01 AM

Bill Otis and federal drug enforcement officials know better than Californians and their physicians whether cannabis is medicinally appropriate for certain conditions.

Never mind the wildly liberal reading of the Commerce Clause they need to employ to get to their desired, authoritarian end. The drug war is the good, holy war. The evil weed must be stomped out!! States' rights don't matter when the Feds are on the "right" side of an issue.

Never mind that actual biologists and physicians have found that cannabis has genuine medicinal benefits. The drug warriors have a greater understanding of the subject than the scientists. Indeed, marijuana is listed as a Schedule I controlled substance. Therefore, it must have no legitimate medicinal value. The federal government is infallible in this sphere.

Oh wait: The federal government, in conjunction with the University of Mississippi, grows and supplies marijuana to a select number of patients. How can that be, drug warriors? Could it be that the Schedule I classification of marijuana is just more sheer nonsense and hypocrisy, courtesy of the United States government?

Holder, Obama, Bill Otis, members of the DEA, and others who carry out and support the federal drug war are life-crushing, anti-libertarian gangsters. Unfortunately, they're armed to the teeth.

Posted by: Cali. Capital Defense Atty. | Dec 11, 2011 4:27:49 AM


"Bill Otis and federal drug enforcement officials know better than Californians and their physicians whether cannabis is medicinally appropriate for certain conditions."

I know better than the hucksters making a mockery of the MM law to effectively do exactly what Californians rejected last year -- establish dope as an all-comers, recreational drug for anyone who'll lie about his "medical" needs, such as "anxiety." Of course, their point is not so much to make a mockery. It's to make money without getting a real job. Wonderful bunch of guys, I tell you.

"Never mind the wildly liberal reading of the Commerce Clause they need to employ to get to their desired, authoritarian end."

Try going to law school, or at least reading. Raich was written by Stevens, the most liberal Justice then on the Court, and joined by ALL the other liberals.

Stevens was a real authoritanian, right?

"The drug war is the good, holy war."

Nope, the good, holy war is the one waged by your clients -- you know, the wholesome folks who blow the convenience store clerk's head off to empty out the cash register so that they can get their next fix.

Gads, CCDA, are you still this soreheaded a full year after getting wiped out in the Prop 19 disaster?

Too bad. Grow up and get over it.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 11, 2011 8:35:07 PM

"the good, holy war is the one waged by your clients"

No, the war is about money, for the cartels, making it, for government enforcement and their enablers, a steady and stable stream of taxpayer funding and continued employment.

Bill, please grow up and get over it.

Posted by: counterpoint | Dec 14, 2011 12:59:01 PM

Im aware of what's happening. The judgment has still a long way to go.

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