This week Village Voice Media newspapers around the country, including Seattle Weekly, published an article by Phoenix New Times writer Ray Stern that examines President Barack Obama's bizarre flip-flop on the issue of medical marijuana.
Among the revelations Stern delivers is that a group of California U.S. Attorneys claim, despite previous reports to the contrary, that the current medical-marijuana crackdown in that state received "Obama's blessing."
A spokesperson for U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner is now claiming that in no way did President Obama sign off on the crackdown and, for that matter, neither did Attorney General Eric Holder.
But whether they "signed off" or not, Wagner's office's claim that these U.S. Attorneys acted alone is, as I believe the French call it, bullshit.
As The Huffington Post reports:
Lauren Horwood [Wagner's spokesperson] emphasized that the administration never even green-lighted the ramped-up enforcement actions.
The only D.C.-based official with whom California U.S. attorneys coordinated, Horwood said, was Deputy Attorney General James Cole, who was chosen by Attorney General Eric Holder, an Obama appointee.
"He's the one who provided the quote for our press release, and he's chosen by Eric Holder," Horwood told HuffPost in an interview. "But we didn't have direct talks with Eric Holder -- not that we wouldn't, he's been out and visited -- but just the way the Department of Justice works, he's not that hands-on on these kinds of details."
Not the way the Department of Justice works, eh, Ms. Horwood.
So how does the Department of Justice work?
Even the chart itself is signed off by Eric Holder.
Oh, right. It's a straight shot of bureaucracy from the U.S. Attorneys to the Deputy U.S. Attorney and on to the Attorney General.
And who does the Attorney General report to?
The answer, like the answer to who everyone reports to in the Executive Branch of the government, is the President of the United States of America--who is, at least for another year or so, Barack Obama.
And while no one should believe that Obama and Holder personally flew out to California to inspect raid plans and brief police on which medical-marijuana providers and patients they want arrested, the fact is that Wagner, like everyone else in this country, has a boss. And it's that boss--in this case, Eric Holder and ultimately, President Obama--whom the buck stops with.
The reasons for the Obama administration wanting to distance itself from unpopular medical-marijuana crackdowns is obvious. Obama needs pot advocates and patients to come out and vote for him next November. And being known as "the worst President ever on marijuana," as he was recently called by a prominent marijuana activist, is not the way to accomplish that.
Here in Washington state we have a similar crackdown occurring in Eastern Washington where, under the direction of U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby, cannabis providers have been raided and charged with marijuana distribution.
A spokesperson for Ormsby's office refused to comment on the statements of his counterparts in California, citing a desire not to seem critical of them.
But whatever the case, the raids in this state weren't simply doodled onto a bar napkin by Mr. Ormsby and then carried out by local and national authorities on a whim.
Ormsby, just like Wagner, reports to James Cole and Eric Holder, and if those two don't see every detail of what Ormsby does, they can certainly step in and object at any time--an action that to our knowledge neither has ever taken on this issue.
The same goes for President Obama.
The Oval Office boats an array of modern communication devices that, at any point, could be used to contact the Attorney General and say, "Hey, Eric Holder, dude I gave a job to: Can you tell these U.S. Attorneys to stop with all the raiding and arresting pot patients? I thought I made it clear we weren't going to interfere."
But again, that phone call never occurred.
Something to keep in mind for voters when they make their own call next year.