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Friday, 30 August 2013 07:13

Department of Justice Surrenders on Pot

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amari8 30Speculate away on the timing of this Department of Justice (DOJ) Historic announcement (the White House wanted to divert attention from the surveillance state exposure fiasco, from the lack of prosecution of Wall Street millionaires and billionaires who committed fraud, from the festering Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction may kill us if we don't bomb people scare...oh, just name your diversion of mass media news theory), but the White House finally ate the Alice B. Toklas Brownies. 

The Obama administration decided that it needed to show that it could actually change something after six years -- instead of business as usual for the ruling elite in DC and then some -- and decided not to interfere in the democratically-passed propositions and laws allowing marijuana use and medical marijuana dispensaries in a rapidly growing number of states.

Thursday was the day of the big announcement in a call that Attorney General Holder held with governors announcing written guidelines that, with some exceptions, will not challenge state or local marijuana legalization. 

A USA Today article put it bluntly:

The Justice Department will not attempt to challenge state laws that allow for the medical and recreational use of marijuana as long as the drug sales do not conflict with eight new federal enforcement priorities.

Those include the distribution of marijuana to minors and sales that assist or act as cover for trafficking operations, according to a directive being issued Thursday to federal prosecutors across the country.

Although the directive issued by Attorney General Eric Holder will apply nationwide, it will largely affect the 20 states and the District of Columbia that allow for medical marijuana use, and Colorado and Washington where state laws allow medical and recreational use by adults.

USA Today also notes the shift in stance on the prosecution of populist votes for decriminalizing marijuana is historic, whatever the details:

The sweeping directive was described as a major breakthrough by advocates for decriminalizing marijuana use.

"Today's announcement demonstrates the sort of political vision and foresight from the White House we've been seeking for a long time,'' said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which supports the legalization of marijuana and favors referring offenders to treatment rather than prison.

"They (federal officials) are basically saying to Washington and Colorado: proceed with caution. They are giving (states) a chance to roll this out. This is politically and historically significant.''

Not too long ago, the DOJ was leaking like a sieve to the Washington Post that it was looking for a way to challenge the new marijuana legalization laws in Washington State and Colorado (details of the implementation of the laws are still being worked out in the two states), and continue its periodic bust ups and prosecutions of medical marijuana dispensaries.  The argument of the unnamed sources in the Post and some other administration mouthpieces was that marijuana is still federally classified as an illegal narcotic and the DOJ was obligated to enforce federal law.  Of course, a lot of Wall Street and corporate looters know that the DOJ is very selective about which laws to enforce and against whom.

So regardless of the likelihood that the administration decided that it needed some good press -- and that polls are increasingly on the side of legalizing pot, including state and local governmental units that are looking to it for tax dollars in a time of federally and state imposed austerity -- Holder's directive to the US Attorneys was a breakthrough for common sense and reducing the backlash of marijuana prohibition that results in unnecessary drug war deaths, costly and personally destructive imprisonment, and huge taxpayer costs in enforcement when the product itself could help enrich the public treasury through taxation.

Awhile back, Holder did take a progressive stand on finally endorsing rolling back ruinous mandatory federal sentences for non-violent drug offenders. That was a start, but the best way for reducing so-called "crime" in relation to marijuana use is by legalizing it.

Of course, the White House couldn't let "change" be "misinterpreted," so according to The New York Times, "Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, said the president believed it was best to focus on high-level offenders like kingpins and traffickers."

Uh, as marijuana legalization becomes the norm over the next few years, wouldn't the most likely kingpins and traffickers of the future be the tobacco companies, who have been reportedly preparing for marijuana legalization and the massive new profits it will yield for some time?

Good luck, Mr. President, going after those campaign contribution kingpins.

(Photo: Dey)