United States Attorney General, Eric Holder said that the Obama administration is only targeting dispensaries that have exceeded state laws and that he is still trying to find accountability in the errors under Operation “Fast and Furious”. Attorney General Holder was in a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on Thursday where he told the committee, “We limit our enforcement efforts to those individuals, organizations that are acting out of conformity with state law,”. The response was in answer to Representative Jerrold Nadler from New York who was questioning Holder about the administration’s medical marijuana policies. Representative Nadler has sponsored a medical marijuana bill in the state of New York.
During his 2008 campaign, Obama promised to make marijuana use a lower priority, and to not waste government resources prosecuting medical marijuana cases. When the first few DEA raids happened during his tenure, the White House said that it was just a holdover from the previous administration’s policies. In October of 2009, a year after Obama took office, Eric Holder issued a memo that has been debated ever since. The “Holder memo” was put out to provide clarification and guidance to federal prosecutors in Medical marijuana states. It asked them to not focus on individuals using medical marijuana in compliance with existing state laws. The memo also stated that, “prosecution of commercial enterprises that unlawfully market and sell marijuana for profit continues to be an enforcement priority of the Department.” Activists and entrepreneurs interpreted that memo to mean if they were following state laws, they would not be targeted by federal authorities. That has not been the case.
In recent months the raids and closures of dispensaries in California and elsewhere point to federal authorities stepping up their efforts to close medical marijuana businesses. Attorney General Holder said that his department tries to focus only on marijuana operations that stretch state laws. Holder said the recent raids in Colorado and California were because the raided medical marijuana distribution centers were near schools.
Holder was also pressured about “Operation Fast and Furious”, a program where DEA agents were letting weapons freely move across the US/Mexican border (gun walking) in hopes of pinning future charges on drug gang leaders. He was answering to the charge by the Committee Chairman Lamar Smith that the Obama Administration had “shown a disregard for the US Constitution and the rule of law in an effort to impose their agenda on the American People”. Smith said that efforts to block congressional inquires about the Administration’s actions in Operation Fast and Furious are an attempt to hide those responsible for the decisions that led to the death of Border Patrol Agent, Brian Terry by a rifle purchased with knowledge under the Fast and Furious operation.
Smith also accused the Justice Department of refusing to comply with Congressional subpoenas to find out why the program was ever authorized and who had knowledge of the inappropriate tactics. Holder and Congressman Darrell Issa had a heated exchange over accountability for the “Fast and Furious” program. Issa and others are wanting more accountability over just who authorized this dangerous, and ultimately deadly plan. The Justice department has admitted to having over 140,000 internal documents that reference the operation, but they have only handed over 7,600 of them to a congressional investigator.