Interesting news reactions to new federal medical marijuana policy.

The Obama administration’s new guidelines discouraging federal prosecution of marijuana in states where it is medically legal was widely reported this week by the major networks. This writer, while using the treadmill of course, was able to catch the NBC, CBS and ABC coverage between 5:30 and 6pm Monday evening.

The news of the new federal policy is one of the biggest events in the last several decades of drug policy reform and important actual news to tens of millions of Americans. But this switch in medical marijuana policy was not the first story at either network. CBS lead off its newscast with, again, coverage of the Balloon Boy hoax, which, by this time, was over 72 hours old.

The second CBS story finally got to the new policy sent by the Obama justice department to prosecutors across the country and to the head of the DEA, essentially telling them not to waste resources on prosecuting medical cannabis where it is state legal.

All three of the traditional networks played the story cautiously. Prohibitionists were interviewed for their reactions and allowed to recite their tired talking points. The LA City Attorney Cooley was given face time to call alarm about the high number of dispensaries in LA. He did not mention that the crime rate is down.

Surprisingly, by far the most intelligent reporting on cannabis issues is this week coming from Fox Business News. As flagged by Norml’s Radical Russ, the Fox stories have been matter-of-fact, adult and intelligent. Tuesday’s interview with Denver hedge fund manager and cannabis seed developer Ben Holmes was as positive and intelligent as the Colorado cannabis entrepreneur himself. It was followed Wednesday with a prohibitionist LA official.

The next day, ONDCP Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske showed himself to be a dullard. The Fox Business news team seemed exasperated in trying to pull any intelligent responses to the changes underway on the ground in California and other states with medical exemptions. On hearing the L word, legalization, the drug czar lapsed into his lame, “legalization is not in our vocabulary” rant.

A surprising discussion was found, oddly, on the CNN show of drug war reactionary, Lou Dobbs.  His panel addressing the new medical marijuana guidelines included Clinton Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, Cato Institute scholar Tim Lynch and from LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, ex-cop and criminal justice professor Peter Moskos. Moskos did an excellent job explaining the LEAP position.

McCaffrey fumed, then blatantly lied when he said providers and consumers of medical cannabis had never been targeted by the Feds. Over a decade ago, McCaffrey himself (along with, regrettably, Rahm Emanuel) threated physicians in California with even mentioning medical uses of cannabis to patients, after California voters demanded change in 1996’s Proposition 215. This was too much for Cato Institute scholar Tim Lynch who pointed out that McCaffrey’s anti free speech actions had ended in a circuit court ruling against him. It was good to see such assertive and competent anti-prohibitionists pitted against the sputtering drug war lies of years gone by.

Eric Holder keeps Obama’s promise! Just said “No!” Federal medical cannabis raids to end.

Eric Holder ends DEA raids on medical cannabis patients and facilities!

Buried near the end of a press conference covering arrests of the Sinaloa cartel, Eric Holder responded to a reporter’s question. He was asked if the DEA raids on California medical cannabis (marijuana) facilities just after President Obama took office would be the future policy, despite Obama’s campaign pledge to end the federal raids. The answer was refreshing and is a milestone in the endless War on Drugs.

Eric Holder just said “No.” He continued, “What the president said during the campaign, you’ll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we’ll be doing in law enforcement. He was my boss during the campaign. He is formally and technically and by law my boss now. What he said during the campaign is now American policy.”

The Attorney General’s simple statement, elicited only by one half of a two part question twenty five minutes into a press conference, was far more important than the subject of the press conference, drug cartel arrests. With the DEA (acting) administrator MIchele Leonhart at his side, we can be certain his policy was heard by the DEA.

The specter of federal arrests and prosecutions has always loomed  for state-certified cannabis patients and care-givers in those states with laws allowing medical use (and growth) of cannabis.

Ironically, Eric Holder’s actions in lessening federal prohibition of cannabis may do far more to reduce the power of the Mexican cartels than all the enforcement actions he announced yesterday. Even though all of the Sinaloa cartel arrests were for drugs other than cannabis, some of their profits come from supplying the American market for marijuana. To the extent that the Attorney General’s new policy will reduce that demand by allowing medical supply in states like California, Oregon, Washington and New Mexico, the cartel’s profits will wane.

Congratulations to Barack Obama and Eric Holder for taking this small step towards medical freedom. No longer will medical consumers of cannabis, nor their state-licensed dispensaries, have to fear raids from squads of federal jack-boot thugs. With the end of this federal harassment, Americans have won back important freedoms long lost in the liberty-killing War on Drugs.

Thanks to Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim for spotting Holder’s remarkable statement.

The race issue Eric Holder cowardly does not talk about.

Eric Holder observes that as “we, as average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race.”  When the new Attorney General starts talking race issues, a giant elephant enters the room. No, not the republican elephant trying to smear the new top cop at the Justice Department with spurious allegations about a pardon during the final days of the Clinton administration. No, Holder’s real elephant in the room is the disaster befallen America’s blacks from the ill-conceived and mis-directed War on Drugs.

Because Eric Holder was a principal architect of this decade’s long war on its own people, it is a topic he, rather cowardly, refuses to address. Meanwhile, black people especially, continued to have their lives smashed by their government and are disproportionately jailed in America’s “drug gulag.” As top prosecutor in Washington DC, he tried to increase punishment for minor drug possession.

The “war on (some) drugs” has been – and continues to be – disastrous for blacks in America. Although now a little dated, the year 2000 Human Rights Watch report Punishment and Prejudice: Racial Disparities in the War on Drugs. It documents he harshness with which minor drug crimes are punished in the USA and how black Americans suffer disproportionate arrest and imprisonment. In 1954, 100,000 black America’s languished behind bars. Now that number is 900,000. Black lives, careers and families have been trashed by a vicious drug war that has had little or no effect on drug use.

President Obama has spoken about the need to abolish the crack sentencing disparity that has landed so many blacks behind bars wth felony convictions. But neither Obama or Holder have addressed the basic problem of a drug war that has declared many Americans, especially black Americans, to be the enemy.

So Eric Holder, as Attorney General, don’t be a coward. Reexamine your prosecuter’s zeal for imprisoning your fellow black American. Help stop the idiotic, and racist, War on Drugs.