Local Spin: Shut ’Em Down
California’s elected federal reps should be ashamed.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
What a bunch of (insert your favorite adjective – like ineffective, lazy, obstructionist, disdainful or interested-in-policy-failure-for-the-sake-of-political gain) cowards.
I speak of the overwhelming majority of California’s Congressional delegation, which last Friday somewhat quietly let California voters know loud and clear exactly what they think of the so-called will of we, the people. And for those fond of referring to me as a “leftist tool,” let me preempt by saying Democrats are as responsible for this as Republicans.
Last Friday, after circulating it through the 54 members of California’s delegation, Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) sent a letter to President Barack Obama expressing their concern with the Department of Justice’s recent heavy-handed action against legitimate medical cannabis dispensaries operating in the state, in accordance with state law. The reps referenced the fact while Attorney General Eric Holder has issued formal guidelines on dealing with medical cannabis – guidelines which clearly state federal resources focus on individuals in clear and unambiguous compliance with state laws – California’s four U.S. Attorneys sent letters to landlords and property owners who rent buildings or property to legally operating cannabis operations notifying them they are violating federal drug laws. And they threatened prosecution and asset seizures to force cooperation.
The shame on Congress part comes at the bottom of the letter. Despite circulating the letter twice (including a round of personal pleas by the congressman), Farr and Rohrabacher’s request that the president reschedule marijuana as a legitimate controlled substance for medicinal purposes managed to gather only seven other signatures other than their own – and only five of those came from California (Pete Stark, Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, Bob Filner and Mike Thompson, all Democrats). Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) also signed.
Farr’s Chief of Staff, Rochelle Dornatt, emails that remaining members “were hesitant to sign, for their own various reasons.”
See the aforementioned adjectives for possible reasons. Or consider these: The Republicans, fond of beating the drum of states’ rights and smaller federal government, would rather federal prosecutors focus on enforcing unpopular federal drug laws than try to parse the market manipulation and fraud that led to our current financial crisis. (It probably hits too close to home for some of our reps, who benefited from campaign donations from people who should be doing time in federal prison if the prosecutors were actually doing their jobs.) Or maybe (and this is for both parties) their buddies in Big Pharma are worried sales of narcotics will plummet if patients have access to less expensive but equally effective pot.
Meanwhile, as the president received Farr and Rohrabacher’s letter, I started receiving letters of my own. Ron Kirkish, a representative of a group called Californians for Drug Free Youth, emailed Weekly CEO Bradley Zeve, Publisher Erik Cushman and me (and copied to Melinda Haag, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California who spent seven years in private practice) warning the Weekly was violating the Federal Controlled Substances Act by accepting ads for patient collectives and head shops. I “may very well be subject to prosecution for aiding and abetting a criminal enterprise,” he wrote, admonishing me that his office is only three floors up from the U.S. Attorney’s in San Francisco and that I might want to take his warnings seriously. Kirkish says he met with First Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch last week to discuss the issue of the Weekly accepting marijuana dispensary ads (and, in a move I like to think of as beating a dead horse even further to death) referenced advertising running in the paper’s student guide.
So I’ve decided to give up. I emailed Stretch and asked him where to turn myself in. Should I go directly to his office, or is there somewhere closer where authorities can take me off the streets? So far, Stretch hasn’t responded.
My attorney pal, after promising me a friend-and-family discount, said U.S. attorneys aren’t known for their sense of humor. “I’ll see you in 10 to 20,” he says.
And the fact that Stretch might not have a sense of humor is a good thing, because I wasn’t trying to be funny. There’s nothing funny about violating state’s rights, destroying businesses operating legitimately by the will of the people of California, and there’s certainly nothing funny about trampling on the First Amendment rights of legitimate business owners advertising their businesses in our or any other paper.
MARY DUAN is the Weekly’s editor. Reach her at email@example.com.