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Does the Obama Administration Really Care if California Legalizes Marijuana?

Attorney General Eric Holder says he will "vigorously enforce" federal marijuana laws in California if Prop 19 passes, and he's taking a lot of well-deserved heat for it. To even suggest that he could somehow bust every pot-smoker in California is just ridiculous on its face, and reeks of desperate last-minute political manipulation. But after watching this event unfold and reading the statement itself, I'm less concerned about federal interference with Prop 19 than ever before.

For all the fanfare surrounding Holder's stupid letter, everyone seems to be forgetting how this all came about. Holder's "statement" is actually a personal response to nine former DEA administrators who had just attacked him in The Wall Street Journal for watching from the sidelines as Prop 19 threatened to bring their world to an end. They called him out publicly, revealing a rather remarkable behind-the-scenes rift between Obama's DOJ and the old guard of drug war demagogues.

Holder's apparent reluctance to shake up the Prop 19 debate with empty threats was so disturbing to marijuana prohibition's biggest stakeholders that they took matters into their own hands. Had he not been challenged in a public forum, Holder would likely never have sent the letter to begin with, nor is it even clear that he intended for it to go public. The Associated Press, which broke the story, says they "obtained a copy of the letter," without specifying where it came from. Considering how eager these ex-DEA bosses were to get this message out, they're the most likely source of the leak. On the other hand, if Holder was responsible, then he not only disclosed it anonymously, but also scheduled it for a Friday news dump when the story would get the least attention.

Whatever actually happened here, the bottom line is that Holder's actions don't exactly amount to the deliberate attack on Prop 19 that they've been made out to be. If he wanted to throw cold water on legalization efforts in California, he would have done so in dramatic fashion months ago, instead of waiting until his conspicuous silence began driving the drug warriors mad. After all, when Holder announced that he would respect state medical marijuana laws, he leaked the story on a Sunday night, kicking off a week-long news cycle of universally positive coverage and delighting a key segment of Obama's base. They know what they're doing.

The point here isn't that Eric Holder (or the President) necessarily wants Prop 19 to pass, but rather that the Obama Administration does everything it can to avoid aggressive anti-pot posturing. This isn't to say that their policies aren't essentially the same sick disaster we've been dealing with for decades, or that they shouldn't be condemned accordingly, or that we owe them any gratitude whatsoever for the kinder, gentler drug war approach they've been peddling so disingenuously. The point is simply that Holder's letter is a joke, and this whole narrative about the feds threatening to crack down in California is silly, not only for the obvious practical reasons others have pointed out, but also because Holder only wrote that letter to placate nine pissed-off prohibitionists, not to scare millions of Californians.

It's easy and appropriate to get angry when the President, or the Drug Czar, or the Attorney General says something stupid about marijuana policy, but it's worth noting that nobody in this administration ever even mentions marijuana unless they are asked loudly, repeatedly, and publicly. Their harshest words are whispers compared to everything that's come before, and if this is the Obama Administration's idea of opposing legalization, then they're obviously a lot more afraid of us than we are of them.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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I think you are totally

I think you are totally right.  They are afraid, but they know there's nothing they can do, so the only thing left for them to do, is to step aside.  Thanx.


YAY!!!  Yes on Prop 19!!

Don't fool yourself.

If Holder said all of that in a written, signed letter, he knew it would be a public statement. He could have reassured the prohibitionists of this on the phone.

That said, it doesn't mean Obama has come out full-force against prop 19. He hasn't said a word yet, and is highly unlikely to until after the vote. What happens if it passes is anyone's guess. Obama has show he has jello for a spine, so I doubt he'll do much at all.

Re: Don't fool yourself

I think you're probably right that he was prepared for it to go public, but it doesn't look like he went out of his way to generate publicity. The letter was clearly written in such a way as to address DEA's concerns in as few words as possible, rather than slamming Prop 19. Aside from saying he'll do his job, there's not much there.

Public forum

I'd really like someone to ask Obama in a public forum "Where do you think you would be today, if you got a criminal record when you "tried" Marijuana?"

Whos got the balls and the opportunity to say it?  I'm sure that he'd have some kind of joke response to avoid the question.  But I demand an answer. 

You can ask him yourself

write him an email:

and then publish any response you receive wherever you desire, including here.

I asked him

when he was singing the praises of programs that "divert" drug abusers into treatment if he were going to be joining us but I never got an answer.  Asking the question in public, however, would require an answer.  Good luck finding a member of the mainstream media with the huevos to go up against the drug warriors, at least in public.

IMO if Obama were smart he

IMO if Obama were smart he would just defer the whole Marijuana Legalization Issue to the states. That would allow him to skip the theatrics of it all, AND still look consistent. (since hes declared himself to be for states rights through his whole career.)

I hope Obama grows some and

I hope Obama grows some and tells Holder and the DOJ to stand down when Prop 19 passes. If he tries to go against the will of the people, he will not have any friends left to defend him. Legalize it already!


The trouble with this view is

The trouble with this view is that - if 19 passes - the cretins will be able to use Holder's statements in efforts to hold him and DOJ to taking adverse actions.

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