After the recent federal crackdown on medical marijuana in California, advocates are understandably upset and want to show it. This week, they took their complaints right to the top, with hundreds of people turning out to protest President Obama in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Shortly after this, however, the U.S. Attorneys in charge of the California crackdown said that the Obama administration had nothing to do with it.
According to a statement made by California Eastern District spokesperson Lauren Horwood prior to these protests, “California U.S. Attorneys decided to take action on their own because the situation has grown out of control among recreational users. But she acknowledges they received Obama's blessing.” (quote from original author paraphrasing Horwood) After a massive outcry, and after protests specifically targeted at Obama, the story changed.
"What I said, or at least meant to say, was that the U.S. Attorneys in California saw the need for coordinated enforcement actions and spoke with folks in Main Justice in D.C. (not the Obama Administration)," she told the Huffington Post in an email.
Okay, so who at Main Justice is responsible?
According to Horwood, approval came from Deputy Attorney General James Cole, author of the Cole Memo that said only individual medical marijuana patients should expect to be left alone by federal law enforcement, not growers or distributors. Cole, however, seemed to be awfully uncomfortable talking about this for being the person directly responsible and lobbed the blame back to the U.S. Attorneys in California when asked if other medical marijuana states should expect this type of enforcement.
Okay, so is it really the California U.S. Attorneys who are responsible? Wait, no.
Kevin Sabet, former senior policy advisor for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, was not as uncomfortable answering that question, however. "Remember, all actions have to be approved by Attorney General Holder, so it's hard to imagine that California would be the only place the Department of Justice is focusing on," Sabet said.
So now the blame is on Holder?
Why can’t we get a straight answer from these people?
Whatever the reasoning for the crackdown, it appears that everyone is trying to draw responsibility away from the men at the top, but not allow it to be put solely on themselves either. After seeing the outrage of medical marijuana supporters in California this week, perhaps the president realized that this sort of interference is alienating his base. And while Attorney General Holder is surely thankful that this issue is distracting people from the fact that the DOJ and ATF provided Mexican drug cartels with assault rifles for two years, he certainly doesn’t need any more blame for unpopular decisions heaped upon him when he is under the gun. And the U.S. Attorneys certainly don’t want to look like they are going rogue, but direct popular anger at their bosses.
We are basically left with two options: either Obama is knowingly breaking his campaign promise to leave medical marijuana alone, or he has completely lost control of the Department of Justice.
And unless the former is true, everyone in the chain of command has the power to stop this wasteful insanity and allow states to run their medical marijuana programs free from unwanted federal interference.
The buck stops with all of them.