Federal/State Showdown

From Charles Platt

I’m sketchy on this aspect of Constitutional law, but isn’t the Justice Department strongly influenced by presidential policy, formally or informally? I don’t watch TV, so I don’t know how much play this story is getting, but doesn’t it seem utterly outrageous, bearing in mind that the Commander in Chief is an admitted former cocaine user?

From a British newspaper:

“Federal prosecutors have launched a crackdown on pot dispensaries in California, warning the stores that they must shut down in 45 days or face criminal charges. They also threatened to confiscate their property even if they are operating legally under the state’s 15-year-old medical marijuana law. In an escalation of the ongoing conflict between the U.S. government and the nation’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry, California’s four U.S. attorneys sent letters on Wednesday and Thursday notifying at least 16 pot shops or their landlords that they are violating federal drug laws, even though medical marijuana is legal in California.”

12 Responses to Federal/State Showdown

  1. shg says:

    Lack of familiarity with the law, the facts, the history, the issues and the discussion is usually an excellent reason not to offer a pubiic opinion.

  2. Charles Platt says:

    SHG, thank you for your message. I would say however that failing to read a post property is an excellent reason for you not to write a snarky reply. I didn’t offer a categorical public opinion. I asked two questions. Are you going to answer them, or is your only purpose to express ridicule? If the latter, you have now achieved this, and you can move on to your next target. If you are interested in the former, please feel free to enlighten me.

    By the way, I once spent a couple of hours interviewing Scott Charney, who had then been hired by the Justice Department to develop policy for prosecuting “cybercrime.” He made the memorable statement, “I’m not going to give you legal advice. I only do that for the President of the United States.” I got the general impression of close cooperation at that time between Justice and the President. I also spent time with the Chairman of the FCC. I sensed, overall, that people who are appointed by the President are rather willing to do what he wants.

    Perhaps you are confusing lack of education, on my part, with ignorance (a common error these days). I have no formal legal education, but I am not entirely ignorant.

    Now, do you have any answers to my questions or not?

  3. MearnsRea says:

    Each US Attorney’s office has some degree of autonomy from the Justice Department to make decisions about what to prosecute and what to not prosecute. Sometimes, the Justice Department issues non-binding recommendations or opinions, like Eric Holder’s 2009 proclamation that the United States would not prosecute MMJ operations that were acting in accordance with state law. So while the executive department has some sway over the actions of local US Attorneys, that doesn’t mean that the US Attorney has to obey every single white house whim.

    Hope that helps.

  4. Charles Platt says:

    Thank you for the elaboration. But in our current era, where the office of the President has acquired such extensive powers, do you really think US attorneys would defy a presidential request to leave California med-marijuana operations alone? To me, this is the core of the matter. Don’t you think our current president could quietly stop this, if he felt like it?

  5. shg says:

    You are being terribly disingenuous to suggest that you’re just asking a question, Charles. If want an answer, ask Randazza. But you want to make a point through the mechanism of asking a question, as demonstrated by your loaded question, and your point both demonstrates ignorance and feeds into it.

    You note that you have no legal education but you’re “not entirely ignorant.” Self-assessments are notoriously unreliable. Now, you’ve not only branded yourself as ignorant, but disingenuous as well. Sorry that this hurts your delicate feelings, but you should consider thinking before posting something publicly in the future.

    As for me, I couldn’t care less about ridiculing you, as I have no feelings about you personally whatsoever, but I do care a great deal about people not being stupider for having read something in the blawgosphere. Sorry, but it was your choice to express yourself publicly. Man up and take the heat for it.

  6. Charles Platt says:

    SHG, perhaps you might pay attention to the example set by MearnsRea, who kindly took the time to write, “…while the executive department has some sway over the actions of local US Attorneys, that doesn’t mean that the US Attorney has to obey every single white house whim.”

    This is interesting. It does not rule out my original suspicion that presidential influence *may* have something to do with the recent decision to threaten California’s medical marijuana dispensaries.

    So, is MearnsRea wrong and ignorant, too?

    Do you, or do you not, have an answer to the original question?

    All you have done so far is write a personal attack that is so rabid, arrogant, inaccurate, and presumptuous, it just induces surprise that gradually gives way to laughter.

    I had hoped for information. Bluster is not a good substitute.

  7. shg says:

    Sorry, teacup. Not interested in enlightening you. Only interested in your not making people stupider for having read you. Sorry your feelings are so deeply hurt, but didn’t know Marco hung around with such delicate flowers.

    • Jesus, do you need to be such a dick? Part of what I try to do around here is bring in some non-lawyer voices. The guy isn’t a lawyer, but his perspective is valuable. You’re infringing on his First Amendment rights just like ESPN did to Hank Williams!

      • shg says:

        Careful or I’ll get Cintron on you. And maybe Bartow too. Naked.

        I’ve got nothing against non-lawyer perspectives, but they still have to do the legwork before spouting publicly. And this one is such a prissy little tinkerbell.

        • Charles Platt says:

          Well, shame on me for having good manners. But in the meantime, since you seem pretty sketchy on this topic, here are some quick references for you. I hope you will agree they suggest that my question was perfectly valid, and your response was not merely obnoxious but wrongheaded.

          “Research by Whitford and Yates (2003) demonstrates that the president’s drug policy signals have an agenda-setting effect over the number of prosecuted federal drug crimes.” (From “The Impact of Presidential Speeches on the Bureaucracy” by Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha. Social Science Quarterly, Volume 89, Number 1, March 2008. Page 117.)

          [the DEA] “is swept along with the stong political winds generated by the President and Congress.” (From “The politics of sin: drugs, alcohol, and public policy” by Kenneth J. Meier. page 99.)

          “Political influence in a presidential administration is nothing new, and at times this has included pressure on the Department of Justice.” (From “How Independent is Obama’s Department of Justice?” by Lenny McAllister, The Root, October 12, 2011.)

          And so on, and so on. You can dig this stuff up as easily as I can, and it’s all very obvious. So why would such a learned and erudite entity as yourself start slinging mud when I ask if presidential influence may be playing a part in the targeting of California medical marijuana outlets?

          I guess what I am trying to say is–what is your problem? Did you lose a case yesterday and feel sufficiently crabby to pick on someone online who, you thought, would be ill-equipped to fight back?

  8. Charles Platt says:

    SHG, I guess neither politeness nor amusement has been of much help in encouraging you to climb down from your pinnacle of omniscience. Okay then, enjoy the view!

    If I were a less charitable person, I might assume you’re just too vain to admit that you were wrong. But, since I am charity personified, I’ll trespass no further into such heresies.

    Getting back to my initial question, it remains open, as before.

  9. Charles Platt says:

    More on the possible linkage:

    By coincidence a friend of mine who is a campaigner for drug legalization just sent me a link to a news item in yesterday’s Huffington Post (which I don’t normally read) headlined “Obama’s War On Weed: White House Launches Crackdown On Medical Marijuana.” Reading the Post carefully, they don’t have any actual evidence that ties the developments in California to an overt or covert presidential policy or recommendation. The point is simply this: The linkage is widely believed.

    The question is whether the linkage really exists–which is what I asked originally.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that SHG is a bit clueless on this topic. I wonder if anyone else is more clueful, or at least can verify the lack of linkage without being personally offensive about it. The Huffington Post story is here, although I don’t have a lot of confidence in it: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/11/war-on-weed-obama-marijuana_n_1005483.html

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