Medical Marijuana Update … Update

The United States Department of Justice has issued a press release on the changes to the prosecution of medical marijuana providers.  According to Attorney General Holder,

“This balanced policy formalizes a sensible approach that the Department has been following since January: effectively focus our resources on serious drug traffickers while taking into account state and local laws.”

The release also contains a link to the Guidelines memo, which can be found here.  An example of an inefficient use of federal resources is provided in the memo:

As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana. For example, prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources.”

However, if the individual is not in clear and unambiguous compliance, that individual could still face federal prosecution.

Seeing is Believing

Last week’s revelations that the “President’s Surveillance Program” was–no surprise–a whole hell of a lot larger than anyone admitted (AP via ABCNews) have stoked a little flame under Congressional Democrats, and even under Attorney General Eric Holder:

A senior Justice Department official close to Holder stressed anew yesterday that the attorney general had reluctantly come to lean toward naming a criminal prosecutor from inside the department, after months of reading classified material including a still-secret 2004 CIA inspector general report.  (Washington Post)
And, as noted, it appears the Dems want to get in on the party.
Ms. Feinstein, a Democrat of California, said on “Fox News Sunday” that Mr. Panetta had told senators last month about Mr. Cheney ordering that the program not be disclosed to Congress.

If Congress were kept in the dark, she said on Fox News Sunday, “that’s something that should never, ever happen again.”

Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, a Democrat, said that “absolutely” warranted an investigation.

“The executive branch cannot create programs like this one and keep Congress in the dark,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “To give the president unbridled authority goes way beyond the United States Constitution.” (New York Times)

But, like most things involving the amazingly Teflon-coated Bush, anything approaching an investigation resulting in anything that might be beneficial to the country will have to be seen to be believed.

Medical Marijuana Legalized. Sorta.

Earlier this week, Attorney General Eric Holder announced at a press conference that the United States Department of Justice would no longer prosecute individuals for providing medical marijuana.  (Lots o’ links here.  The text of the press conference, however, is not online as of this posting, but C-Span has video of the conference here.  According to the Huffington Post, the exchange occures at about the 25:00 point.)

According to most reports, the policy is to stop raiding growers of legitimate medical marijuana in the states that have legalized medical marijuana.  However, if the grow operation is just a front, then all bets are off–such growers may still get prosecuted.  And, according NPR’s Weekend Edition, enforcement is still a confused situation, even in the states where it has been legalized, such as Maine.

Marijuana is a tricky drug.  According to the United States Congress, tetrahydrocannibols (THC is how this is shortened, and it’s the active chemical in marijuana) are Schedule I drugs, which “has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and that there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.”  21 U.S.C. § 812.  However, one has to possess with the intent to distribute an awful lot of marijuana (1000 kilograms or 1000 plants) to be subject to the same punishment as possessing with the intent to distribute, say, 50 grams of crack.  So clearly, the perceived “danger” of marijuana is far less than the perceived “danger” of other controlled substances.  Furthermore, with certain states approving medical marijuana for certain circumstances, what does that have to say about “no currently accepted medical use”?

Anyway, this isn’t about whether marijuana is good or not, or whether it should be illegal or not.  It’s just information about an apparent policy shift that I happen to think is a positive step in the right direction.

Obama’s National Security Team

So the big story this morning, reported by Bloomberg (and thousands of other outlets), is that President-elect Obama has named his nominees for his “national security” team.  This includes: Senator Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State; current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates for Secretary of Defense; retired Marine General James L. Jones for National Security Advisor; Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano to head up the Department of Homeland Security; Susan Rice as U.N. Ambassador; and Eric Holder for Attorney General.

What’s interesting is how the Department of Justice has been conceptually moved into the realm of “national security.”  It’s not necessarily an inappropriate fit, but it is interesting that an organization tasked with enforcing civil rights and dealing with antitrust issues is being called a national security component.

Mukasey Update

The DOJ has released a statement regarding Attorney General Mukasey’s condition:

“At the conclusion of his remarks before the Federalist Society Annual Dinner in Washington, D.C., Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey collapsed.

“Upon his collapse, emergency first aid was rendered by the Attorney General’s security detail and a doctor who was on the scene.

“The Attorney General arrived at George Washington University Hospital shortly thereafter.

“The Attorney General is conscious, conversant and alert. His vital statistics are strong and he is in good spirits. He is receiving excellent care and appreciates all of the good wishes and prayers he has received. The doctors will keep him overnight for further observations.

“We will update the public when we have additional information.”

Mukasey Collapses

Well, it’s still early, and we’ll probably know more in the morning, but Attorney General Mukasey collapsed during a speech before the Federalist Society.  Looks bad.  Newsweek (and scads more) have deets.

Makes me wonder if Bush will try to appoint a successor, let the clock run out, or if he’ll do something weirder, like appoint Holder…

The Sun Herald, by the way, has the text of the speech that Mukasey was delivering.