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AG Holder Accused of Lying About Medical Marijuana Crackdown [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #738)

US Attorney General Eric Holder appeared before the House Judiciary Committee last Thursday and defended his Justice Department's crackdown on medical marijuana cultivation and distribution. Holder told committee members the agency was only targeting only those medical marijuana businesses that were "acting out of conformity… with state law."

Eric Holder
That had medical marijuana defenders up in arms at what they called his falsehoods. Advocates pointed to numerous dispensaries and other medical marijuana-related enterprises that were operating in compliance with state laws and with the support of local elected officials that have been raided by the DEA or subjected to other federal enforcement actions.

Holder's comments came in response to questioning from Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who pointed out that during his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama had promised that he wouldn't use "Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue."

Holder agreed that the Justice Department had broken with Bush administration policy and promised not to go after people operating in compliance with state laws. But large-scale growers and dispensaries have "come up with ways in which they are taking advantage of these state laws and going beyond that which the states have authorized," Holder added. "Those are the only cases we've being going after."

Nadler pointed out that since 2009, the DEA and federal prosecutors have raided almost 200 dispensaries and growers and indicted more than 60 medical marijuana providers on federal drug charges and again asked Holder to clarify.

Holder responded that the Justice Department is only going after "those individuals (and) organizations that are acting out of conformity... with state laws."

Holder added, however, that in some cases, mainly in Colorado, the department was also targeting dispensaries located "too close" to schools. Those enforcement actions were taken not because the dispensaries were violating state laws, but because they were inside the 1,000-foot range specified by an enhanced federal sentencing statute.

Holder "lied to the House Judiciary Committee" in saying the Justice Department was only going after dispensaries and growers that were not in compliance with state laws," California NORML (CANORML) retorted bluntly. "The Justice Department's bad faith seriously impugns the credibility and competence of Attorney General Holder and his administration."

Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), was only slightly more politic.

"What he said to our congressional representatives should be alarming not only to medical cannabis patients, but also to policymakers and the general public, because, based on all of the available information we have, it surely must be a lie," she wrote on the Huffington Post.

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) was a bit more diplomatic.

"The problem with Holder's statements is that the federal government's determination of compliance with state law is still fairly ambiguous, even arbitrary," MPP spokesman Morgan Fox told the Chronicle. "This makes it difficult for medical marijuana providers to know if they are safe, creating a chilling effect on the entire industry and resulting in pain, suffering, and potential danger for patients forced to resort to the illicit market."

The states should decide whether a dispensary is violating state law, he added.

"At the end of the day, it should be state authorities who determine if operators are in compliance with state law, not federal prosecutors who view the entire industry through a filter of illegality," Fox said. "Beyond that, using any federal resources to interfere with medical marijuana in states where it is legal is an inexcusable waste when there are far more serious problems that need attention."

CANORML was quick to point to a long list of California medical marijuana facilities that had been raided, threatened, or driven out of business by federal enforcers despite having sterling reputations, local official support, and complying with state laws and local regulations. Among them are many well-known and -respected operations including the Berkeley Patients Group, the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, Richard Lee's Oaksterdam University and Blue Sky Coffee Shop, Mendocino County's Northstone Organics, and at least five San Francisco dispensaries, including  the Vapor Room, Hope Net, Divinity Tree, Shambhala, and Medithrive.

CANORML noted that in all of those cases, local officials denounced the Justice Department enforcement actions, "but US Attorneys have insolently disregarded community sentiment."

And that's just in Northern California. US Attorneys in other parts of the state have been equally -- if not more -- active in going after medical marijuana providers. Just one day before Holder addressed the committee, federal prosecutors in Southern California announced a crackdown on Los Angeles County dispensaries, with the DEA raiding two dispensaries and federal prosecutors sending threat letters to 34 more.

The statewide crackdown has been ongoing since last October, when the state's four US Attorneys jointly announced their campaign to rein in the industry. According to ASA, the federal actions have forced more than 300 medical marijuana operations to shut down.

"It's simply not believable that all of these taxpaying businesses were operating in violation of state law," Sherer noted, before asking a series of pointed questions. "If they were, why didn't the state take part in the raids? Why didn't the state or local authorities issue arrest warrants? Why would state and local politicians stand up for businesses breaking state and local laws?"

And stand up they have. Local elected officials, state representatives, state officials, even California Attorney General Kamala Harris have all urged the feds to butt out. Harris wrote to all four US Attorneys in December, telling them the federal government was "ill-equipped" to interpret and enforce state medical marijuana laws.

The fight continues. On Wednesday, the same day the feds announced a new phase of their offensive in Southern California and the same day President Obama visited the Bay Area on a fundraising trip, three San Francisco supervisors wrote an op-ed asking him to "keep the commitment he made to stop the federal government's attacks on medical cannabis."

For medical marijuana advocates, listening to Attorney General Holder saying he is only targeting operations in violation of state laws is bringing back memories of that old country and western music song: "Who are You Gonna Believe? Me or Your Lying Eyes?"

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.



Drug crusaders are guilty of TYRANNY when they interfere with democratically approved marijuana programs. When Federal drug warriors deny voter rights they are guilty of oppression and dictatorship the same as any fascist or communist dictatorship.


More emphasis should be put on the clear fact that the feds are operating tyrannically. They are tyrants and we should make this point again and again. 


The feds are responsible for the reefer madness lies surrounding marijuana and quality as tyrants by any standard of justice. 


Effective messaging means bringing their treachery to light again and again.

Mon, 06/11/2012 - 2:20pm Permalink

Why should any government be concerned with humanity continuing to use the first plant it ever had the initiative to "domesticate"... to study and use in the many ways it can and should be used... By definition it is a medicinal herb... the female plant that is. And the male plant has always been used in so very many ways... and will continue to be used, just like the psychotropic, therapeutic uses will be used... These laws that attempt to control our behavior have as main intention turning what is a nature given, god inspired invention of this cosmos of which we are a part, into a commodity... otherwise it would be clear that marihuana is our most accessible form of medicine for which very little investment is needed. Practically nothing in turn for just about everything. It is capitalist greed that fuels these wars and dirty practices and that has us in the bad place we are at, nationally and globally. I never thought it could really come to this... Shame on Reagan and his kind who got us deeper and deeper into the whole bloody mess, not to mention Calderón in Mexico and the New York Times... also, some of my closest neighbors, the bankers, all in cahoots with them.

 Maybe the bankers can device a formula to quit while we still have something to negotiate between us... not wait until everything has been blown up to pieces. I recommend we all join the OCCUPY movement so we can invent for our selves a true democracy without political parties and the like. Corporations too should go hang... personhood my foot.  The type of corporations they had in the Middle Ages prevented too much development from taking place but they provided stability over time. If we don´t change things fast, those who are left still alive will have the joy of being able to return to the ways of the stone age... when they were all definitely better off, even if they did not live long...Maybe that was the best part! 

Thu, 06/14/2012 - 4:48pm Permalink
Paul Pot (not verified)


Holder is a gun runner.
He traffics in armaments with some of the biggest criminal organizations in the world.
It is his job to lie.
The dispensaries represent a serious threat to the status-quo. 
They prove that marijuana is not a danger to society and they may provide funding and resources to the movement to legalize marijuana, something the military industrial complex fears more than anything.
Sat, 06/09/2012 - 12:16am Permalink
kickback (not verified)

Look at the Federal Government`s annual drug war budget . It`s gone up again . This debacle of Cannabis prohibition is all about government jobs and power . These jobs require money . Politicians get their money from those that would lose out if Cannabis/Hemp were legalized . Oil / gas , pharma , timber , cotton , chemical industry , law enforcement , courts , prisons , wall street banks and the cartels . Google " origins of cannabis prohibition " and look around .

Sat, 06/09/2012 - 1:48am Permalink
SonofK (not verified)

Well I'm not sure how to follow the analogy of floppng penises... but I'm going to try. Eric Holder is one more cog in the machine of our corrupt government. Expecting truth from a politician is like expecting farts to smell like roses. The Obama administration is killing civilians by the dozen then classifying them as militants after the fact. Why would anyone expect anything but lies from his and his appointee's is beyond me. I hate Mormotron 5000 Romey as well but at least he is being honest about hIs views before becoming president. Obama lied to get the youth vote. The only real hope and change we can count on is that we won't be stuck with this asshole after another term.
Sun, 06/10/2012 - 9:56pm Permalink
steven (not verified)

In reply to by SonofK (not verified)

don't throw the baby out with the bath water....there is no way that Romney would be better  than Obama.....Romney is a Mormon, Mormons do not permit smoking drinking or even very hot what in hell do you think he would do about marijuana???? Obama can be persuaded to decrimilize or at the very least he, will  come around to approve medical marijuana...just give the man time and definately do not put your faith in  Romney

Thu, 06/14/2012 - 6:14pm Permalink
Moonrock (not verified)

In reply to by steven (not verified)

A friend of mine has the same attitude you do, Steven. I, however, am much more skeptical. I really feel burned by all of Obama's unfulfilled promises. It's very difficult right now to see him as anything more than a self-serving, two-faced liar. In other words, a typical politician. But it's not that I would have any faith in Romney, it's just that I've lost all faith that there are viable political solutions to our most urgent national problems. The system needs to be reformed.

Fri, 06/15/2012 - 4:44pm Permalink
Dennis Pielack (not verified)

Chris Rock called Obama a zebra- black and white man: you can't believe him as a black man making up for the slavery of the past with fairness and equality for the future; and you can't believe him as a white man working his wisdom for a better world for especially all white people; you can believe he will lie to anyone for his personal political ambition and that's about all you are safe to believe. Holder is another Obama.

Sun, 06/10/2012 - 11:39pm Permalink


Drug crusaders are guilty of TYRANNY when they interfere with democratically approved State marijuana programs. When Federal drug warriors deny voter rights they are guilty of oppression and dictatorship the same as any fascist or communist dictatorship.


More emphasis should be put on the clear fact that the feds are operating tyrannically. They ARE tyrants and we should make this point again and again. 


The feds are responsible for the reefer madness lies surrounding marijuana and quality as tyrants by any standard of justice. 


Effective messaging means bringing this TYRANNY to light again and again.

Mon, 06/11/2012 - 2:14pm Permalink
Rockin Randy (not verified)

Last election I voted for Obama but if this keeps up I will have no choice but to vote for the rich white man for president. He can't be any worse than Obama or Holder.

Fri, 06/15/2012 - 10:33am Permalink
the virgin terry (not verified)

rockin randy, why do u feel u have no choice but to vote for someone who assuredly is no improvement over the obamanation we already have? why not vote green or libertarian? or don't vote at all. why support anyone u know will continue to persecute u?

Sat, 06/16/2012 - 1:32am Permalink
Lee Galizer (not verified)

I won't vote for Obama again. He's obviously just another politician who is not interested in governing but is instead only interested in re-election, just like every other politician. I will most likely vote for Gary Johnson although I am not 100% in line with his positions. He is however, a far better choice than the elephant & the a$$.

Makes me sick about what has become of our country & as citizens, we let it happen. Obviously, we only receive what we deserve when we elect our political class to high positions, not what we want or need.

Legalize & regulate...... now!

Sat, 06/16/2012 - 12:43pm Permalink
Mike Dar (not verified)

It has become a massive embarrassment having to listen to political appointees and politicians anymore.

They seldom care if the public believes them, and certainly do not believe the public makes a difference. Any lie stated, is all they are going to effort themselves to, with obvious belief that if the public does not like being lied to, it just too bad for the public...after all, congress and other appointees are willing to 'go along', and that is all that matters.

Since the days of Clinton, the DOJ has been nothing but a tool for the potus. Supreme Justices pander just as the elected do for the Primary Dealers to the Federal Reserve. 

Long ago we lost any semblance in our courts for justice(unless paid for), now we can expect absolutely nothing from from enforcement and the lawmakers...all any in the top ranks are concerned with is staying in the money flow, the hell with sworn obedience to any thing but the money flow.

Such arrogance.

Mon, 06/18/2012 - 7:34pm Permalink
DJ (not verified)

Seems we have some paid right wingers here.

That's designed to discourage progressives from going to the polls

Actually there is more reason than ever to vote now.

Everyone vote now, everyone is doing it!

Tue, 09/18/2012 - 3:30am Permalink

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