Pubdate: Mon, 18 Mar 2013
Source: Columbian, The (WA)
Copyright: 2013 The Columbian Publishing Co.


Either Way Eric Holder Decides, He's Sure to Anger Many People

Last December, when asked on an ABC-TV show if there would be a 
federal intervention into marijuana legalization laws passed in 
Washington and Colorado, President Barack Obama said, "We've got 
bigger fish to fry."On March 5, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, 
suggested the federal government has fewer bucks to spend, as well, 
and the Drug Enforcement Administration should not waste money or 
time chasing pot smokers in either state. Thus, marijuana reformists 
in both states have become strange new beneficiaries of the 
supposedly stark federal budget sequesters. The Washington Times 
reports that the Justice Department must cut more than $1 billion 
from its operations, which strengthens Leahy's recommendation to 
focus on major federal crimes and not worry about new laws in 
Washington or Colorado.

We should know soon about that federal response. U.S. Attorney 
General Eric Holder on March 5 told the Senate Judiciary Committee 
(chaired by Leahy): "I expect that we will have an ability to 
announce what our policy is going to be relatively soon."

Whatever he announces, Holder will draw criticism. On one side are 
pot doves like Leahy, described this way by The News Tribune in 
Tacoma: "(Leahy) wants to make sure that state laws are respected and 
that state officials in Washington and Colorado who are charged with 
the licensing of marijuana retailers will not face federal criminal penalties."

That's the most prudent approach, and with the sequester in place, it 
might be the only strategy Holder and the Justice Department can afford.

But on the other side are pot hawks like a United Nations agency that 
proclaimed Holder and his department would violate international drug 
treaties if they didn't find ways to repeal the state laws. Also, 
eight former DEA chiefs have declared that President Obama should 
move boldly to obliterate the people's initiatives in Washington and 
Colorado. Their letter read in part: "Sound drug policy must be 
rooted in evidence-based science, not driven by special-interest 
groups who are looking to profit at the expense of our nation's 
public health and safety."

Oh, really? They must be kidding. That's the first time we've heard 
voters in Washington and Colorado described as "special-interest groups."

Holder would do well to ponder the unintended consequence of 
marijuana prohibition, correctly described by former New Mexico Gov. 
Gary Johnson in an op-ed for the British daily newspaper The 
Guardian. Johnson wrote that, for decades now, myriad state and 
federal anti-pot laws "have turned millions of Americans into 
criminals and empowered murderous cartels, in the same way that 
Prohibition empowered Al Capone and an entire generation of organized crime."

In Washington and Colorado, Johnson accurately explains, voters found 
a better way. They "looked at those realities, and quite reasonably 
decided that the questionable benefits of treating marijuana use as a 
crime do not justify the considerable and unmistakable costs."

It won't be long before Americans learn if Holder shares Johnson's views.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom