(Martin A. Lee, Alternet, August 10, 2012)
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Obama Administration sacrifices medical marijuana patients to political expediency.
Team Obama’s decision to crack down on the medical marijuana industry wasn’t motivated by public health concerns. The Justice Department green-lit a scorched earth campaign against medicinal cannabis in order to placate law enforcement and control the damage from the Fast and Furious scandal by deflecting attention to other matters.
Eric Holder, Obama’s embattled attorney general, was under mounting pressure from Congress to explain the botched “Fast and Furious” sting operation, in which 2,000 assault rifles and other firearms were sold to suspected traffickers for the Mexican drug cartels. It was intended as an intelligence-gathering ploy, but U.S. agents lost track of most of these weapons. . . . By early October 2011, there were calls for a special prosecutor to investigate whether Holder had perjured himself during testimony before Congress. Right-wing pundits described the scandal as “Obama’s Watergate.” The ATF announced a major shake-up at the top of the bureau. A chorus of disgruntled sheriffs and other G-men clamored for Holder’s resignation. The attorney general was losing support among law enforcement rank-and-file. . . . But Holder had an ace up his sleeve, and he played it at a crucial moment. . . . Ever since California voters approved Proposition 215, which legalized marijuana for medical use in 1996, law enforcement lobbyists had been urging the federal government to enforce prohibition and choke off the burgeoning industry. . . . On October 7, the same day Holder wrote a detailed letter to Rep. Issa, defending his handling of the Fast and Furious affair, four federal prosecutors in California held a hastily organized press conference in which they threw down the gauntlet and announced the start of a far-ranging crackdown that would nearly decimate the Golden State’s medical marijuana industry. . . . Within 10 months, close to half of California’s 1,400 dispensaries would shut down as the DEA waged an all-out vendetta against what Proposition 215 had unloosed. The drug police weren’t just going after the bad apples; they were going after every apple in the barrel. Cannabis dispensaries abiding by state law were raided by federal agents. Federal prosecutors threatened to seize property from landlords who rented to medical marijuana facilities. The feds also threatened municipal officials who sought to implement state medical marijuana regulations. Federally insured banks and credit card companies refused to service marijuana-related enterprises. . . . Medical marijuana proponents were stunned by the ferocity of the Obama administration’s assault on the industry in California and elsewhere. . . . It’s not as though Americans were dropping like flies because of medical marijuana abuse. More than a million Californians had gotten a doctor’s recommendation to use cannabis, and no fatalities or problematic health patterns attributable to the herb had emerged since the passage of Proposition 215. . . . Team Obama’s decision to crack down on the medical marijuana industry wasn’t motivated by public health concerns. The Justice Department green-lit a scorched earth campaign against medicinal cannabis in order to placate law enforcement and control the damage from the Fast and Furious scandal by deflecting attention to other matters. . . . Medical marijuana facilities were red meat for cops and an easy payday for narcs who were aching to take down pot-selling storefronts throughout the Golden State and beyond. Desperate to shore up support among law enforcement, Holder, a longtime marijuana foe, threw the drug war dogs the perfect bone on October 7, 2011. It was a politically expedient decision designed to protect the attorney general’s bureaucratic position. . . . Marijuana’s illegality has long been a useful vehicle for Machiavellian public officials.