In the wake of the major federal crackdown on California medical marijuana, most of the focus has been on the injustice of the action and the various components of the attacks; however, an interesting dual narrative has been developing over the issue of who is to blame. This is actually unusual, as in most cases that do not involve some inter-government scandal federal actors try to show a unified front and avoid playing ping-pong with the responsibility. Yet, what we are seeing in California is a clear attempt to to distance the Department of Justice and, most revealing, President Obama himself from the attack on marijuana.
A spokesperson for one of the California US Attorneys behind the crackdown had previously claimed full responsibility and affirmed that “there was no particular incident that prompted enforcement actions.” Then, Lauren Horwood, spokeswoman for California US Attorney Benjamin Wagner gave a rather contradictory account where she insisted that this was not “Obama’s crackdown,” as many have called it, and yet at the same time admitted that the move had received Obama’s blessing. One may be forgiven for wondering how exactly authorizing such a large-scale crackdown could make the president anything but a chief culprit.
Now the California US Attorneys are doubling down on their claim of independent action and further insisting that outraged marijuana advocates not blame Obama. Horwood is claiming that the administration never gave the go-ahead for the attack and that US attorneys only coordinated with Deputy AG James Cole (who did not attend any of the press conferences about the crackdown because, according to Horwood, California was just too far away) and did not even “have direct talks with [Attorney General] Eric Holder” as the chief law enforcement official in the nation is evidently “not that hands-on on these kinds of details.” If going after California’s entire medical marijuana industry, hundreds of thousands of patients and countless livelihoods is just a “detail” that the Attorney General need not bother with, then just what kind of catastrophe has to happen for the man supposedly in charge to get involved? To call this a case of broken government would be quite the understatement.
California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has already accused the Department of Justice and the IRS of “talking amongst themselves,” and keeping local lawmakers in the dark. “This is becoming more of a mainstream issue. I mean, this was really a mistake,” he added. Such a behavior also indicates that the federal authorities have no intention of working with with the states to arrive at a solution and will act unilaterally whenever they please. Ammiano was also quick to point the finger at Obama and dismiss the US attorneys’ claims as a matter of someone having to “fall on their sword about this.”
This is ultimately just a cynical and pathetic attempt by the Obama administration to push its agenda of repression against marijuana without losing too many votes. It won’t work. The buck stops at the Oval Office and to pretend this is not the case would probably only work in the absurd and isolated Washington DC environment. The people will not be fooled and the president will have to answer for his choices.
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