This Is Your President on Drugs
by Jack Landsman, Wed Sep 15, 2010 at 12:17:54 AM EDT
As a persistent (progressive) critic of Barack Obama, it is often demanded I offer any area in which I approve of the president. In response to the inquiry, I have usually given a two-fold answer: First, in terms of his personal appeal, I consider President Obama to be both the coolest fellow ever elected president and the coolest fellow that ever will be president. Although he’s notoriously overhyped, like Sean Penn, I’m drawn to the word “elegant” in describing our first black president. I am also aligned with Ann Coulter and The Hitch in the belief that Barack Obama is probably a non-believer—although I have usually expressed such gleeful suspicion sotto voce for fear of having my hipster chat overheard by teabaggers.
Furthermore, my very real desire to find some common ground with this president has led to me to lavish fulsome praise on his administration for what I thought was its enlightened stance on raids by the Drug Enforcement Agency on medicinal marijuana dispensaries even when they are in complete accordance with state laws.
Well, I’ll be damned.
Perusing the news only to find headlines like “How ObamaCare Guts Medicare,” or “Obama shifts tone on health care,” is as maddening as it is banal and totally predictable after a while. “Speak no evil: DEA, DOJ stay mum on medical marijuana raids,” however, is akin to a violent nutcheck.
Despite campaign promises to the contrary, the Department of Justice under President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder hasn’t stopped raiding marijuana dispensaries operating in states where sale of the drug is legal for medical purposes. But the DOJ has demonstrated one marked change now that it’s under Democratic control: The department has stopped publicizing medical marijuana raids, both by requesting that more cases be sealed under court order and by refusing to distribute press releases.
Late last week, DEA and FBI agents raided five medical marijuana dispensaries in Nevada. In July, DEA agents raided the home of 65-year-old Mendocino County, California, grower Joy Greenfield and confiscated plants, money, and her computer. Also in July, DEA agents raided the home of a couple in Michigan who were licensed by the state to use marijuana, as well as three medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego. In January and February of this year, the DEA raided two medical marijuana research labs in Colorado.
In all of the above cases, the DEA and the U.S. Attorneys’ offices issued no press releases and held no press conferences. The websites for DEA and the U.S. Attorneys’ offices in Detroit, Denver, Northern California, and Los Angeles (which also handles cases in Nevada) make no mention of the above dispensary raids, but do feature news releases for raids, arrests, and investigations involving harder drugs, as well marijuana trafficking, which is illegal in all states.
In its rather confounding quest to dispirit the Democratic base in a crucial midterm election cycle, the Obama administration appears determined to leave no stone unturned. Peering through my binoculars from the present vantage point, the 2010 midterms is increasingly looking like a reactionary tidal wave. Joined with the administration’s previously righteous walk back on DEA raids—not to entirely end them, of course, but to reprioritize them as nonessential; the implications were clear—the Democratic establishment’s support for California’s imperfect but worthy Proposition 19 could have bolstered the prospects of a Moonbeam restoration and Barbara Boxer’s tenuous re-election bid.
In addition to high-profile individuals and organizations like Democratic representatives Pete Stark, Barbara Lee, and George Miller, the American Federation of Teachers, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ridiculously awesome former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, Prop 19 recently attracted the support of the Service Employees International Union.
For its part, the California Democratic Party has decisively failed where the American Libertarian Party is superlative. The party’s abdication of the zeitgeist, for me, is reminiscent of the NAACP’s refusal to assist Martin Luther King’s audacious break with Lyndon Johnson over the tragic Vietnam adventure. (Our beautiful brothers and sisters of the California branch have gotten it right on Prop 19, however.)
Considering the depths of the current badass economic depression, the fecklessness of the White House, the desperation of Democrats on Capitol Hill, and the untrammeled fury of the Tea Party set, I am very much hesitant to write off unserious and normally unelectable characters like Sharron Angle of Nevada or the avaricious mental deficient that was just nominated by Delaware Republicans. This terrible reality makes the cowardice of Golden State Democrats and the capitulation of right-minded reformists in Barack Obama’s Justice Department all the more shameful.
As if he doesn’t have enough to contend with, if Prop 19—and tragic hero Russ Feingold—goes down on November 2, this president is going to find himself in a very lonely place. Assuming he chooses to soldier on, next year’s Recovery Winter in Iowa will be sweet payback.
A few unsolicited recommendations for the morning thereafter: OG Kush, a couple of White Owl cigarillos, and a pilgrimage to Sweet Binney’s, Mr. President.