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Friday, May 10, 2013

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to Visit Berkeley, Marijuana Supporters to Protest

Posted By on Fri, May 10, 2013 at 2:33 PM

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Eric Holder is a survivor. The United States attorney general's record during President Obama's first term was more than a bit spotty: Holder angered the left when he defended Obama's use of drones to kill suspected terrorists without court proceedings and when he said he couldn't prosecute the banks that gambled away Americans' wealth (and then received more of their money via a taxpayer bailout).

Meanwhile, the right called for his head for his role in the "Fast and the Furious" "gun-walking" scandal that put assault weapons in the hands of Mexican drug cartel gangsters.

There was talk that a second-term Obama would find a new man to be AG -- yet Holder has held on. And he will visit the University of California Berkeley tomorrow -- or, in other words, he'll visit the epicenter of the other constituency he's infuriated: medical marijuana users.

Holder's Justice Department is at this moment busy trying to shut down dispensaries in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, and activists plan to crash his commencement speech tomorrow morning.

Many were surprised when Colorado and Washington, and not California, became the first states where adult use of marijuana became legal. Many blame Holder -- and a few years on, it appears he more than anyone else is responsible. California's 2010's marijuana legalization effort, Prop. 19, was polling roughly even until October, when Holder issued a warning to California cities and counties eager to cash-in on legal adult weed that federal law still mattered and he would "vigorously enforce" statutes outlawing cannabis. This "October surprise" helped Prop. 19 go down -- by five points; he did not repeat the trick in Colorado and Washington two years later where voters approved legalization in both states.

In fall 2011, Holder's four United States attorneys in California announced a coordinated crackdown on California's law-abiding medical cannabis dispensaries. It's been erratic and it's been selective, but "hundreds" of tax-paying pot clubs statewide have closed. At this moment, U.S. Attorney for Northern California Melinda Haag is moving to close down the Oakland's biggest taxpayer: Harborside Health Center -- the state's largest pot club.

It's not known who at the Obama Administration is calling the shots on pot. Early in Obama's term, a memo from former Deputy Attorney General David Ogden stated that the Justice Department should not use "limited resources" to prosecute state medical marijuana law-abiding pot users; California responded with a boom in dispensaries and cannabis grows. In 2011, a second memo from Deputy Attorney General James Cole contradicted that message, saying the federal Controlled Substances Act would be enforced; soon thereafter, the crackdown began.

Members of Americans for Safe Access plan to greet Holder in a unique way. They're dressing up as Justice Department employees and trying to recruit the cap-and-gowned Berkeley graduates to work on Obama's drug war.

They'll be out at the Greek Theater at 9 a.m. tomorrow "to hand out our recruitment fliers" while trying to find the one person in the Bay Area who can say Holder's done a helluva a job.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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