Be careful not to assume the Drug Czar has power or information

Some concern has been expressed regarding this ThinkProgress piece

Federal prosecutors will crack down on recreational marijuana dispensaries and growers even in states where they are legal, U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske told a Canadian news magazine this week. The statement appears to be the first from a federal official to state explicitly that the federal government will prosecute dispensaries and producers once they are licensed in Washington and Colorado.

This makes it seem like it’s some kind of official government pronouncement, but I think that’s really reading too much into the statement.

Sure, it’s not hard to imagine our government being so pathetically dysfunctional as to have the President duck the question, the AG unable to discuss it frankly with the Governors of the states involved, and then have Kerlikowske announce it to a Canadian magazine.

But in reality, if you read the actual interview, I don’t think the Drug Czar has any more of a clue than you or I and is just frustrated.

After all, this is the same interview in which he slammed the administration:

“The administration has not done a particularly good job of, one, talking about marijuana as a public health issue, and number two, talking about what can be done and where we should be headed on our drug policy.”

The Drug Czar has very little real power or information. He is primarily a propagandist, there to oppose legalization (as required by law), deflect criticisms of the government’s war on drugs, and wrap up our completely corrupt drug policies in pretty paper by talking about the focus on treatment and our move toward some mythical “third way.”

He has no idea what the U.S. Attorneys will do.

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35 Responses to Be careful not to assume the Drug Czar has power or information

  1. n.t. greene says:

    Well, look at how the MM crackdowns have gone. There is ample strength in numbers, and in some ways the requisite bureaucratic processes work against the feds here. The time and effort it takes to make a single bust lends to the idea that their focus will remain narrow despite broader threats.

    Unless they get a massive influx of funding, they are already essentially at their maximum capacity. I have a hard time believing they will be able to secure the needed additional funding to bring down the supply system of two entire states.

    If they don’t win in the courts, they’re going to have little more than empty threats to fling.

  2. allan says:

    Thanks Pete for clarifying that!

  3. divadab says:

    I think it’s wrong to dismiss the “Czar’s” (damn I hate that term – it should be banished from a country that has no king but G-d) influence entirely. Kerlikowski speaks for a faction in the US government. A faction that still has power and budgets to make selective prosecutions such as the one that shut down Harborside and confiscated all its assets.

    As long as factions in the government have this power, it’s foolish to invest in a business that they could target, unless you can afford to lose it all to a random prosecution.

    The positive outcome of this is that the cannabis industry necessarily stays small and non-corporatized. Because if he goes away, thousands of small producers who make a living on the business will have to compete with large corporate growers supplying Costco herb in the $199 quap family pack.

    Be careful what you wish for.

    • Duncan20903 says:


      Harborside is still in business, and a Federal judge refused to evict them a few months ago.

      Steve DeAngelo has been a wonderful fly in the Federal ointment. I’m still hopeful he’s going to win and the man is nucking futz enough to do it. Let’s not declare him dead while there’s still breath in his chest. If that which does not kill us truly makes us stronger then there’s probably a darn good reason for it if Harborside installs an old fashioned telephone booth around the corner. Look, up in the sky…

      • divadab says:

        Good for Mr. DeAngelo for risking his personal wealth to take on the feds. My point is that very few businesspeople would be willing to do what he is doing.

        I know personally people whose lives have been ruined by selective federal prosecution, even when they fail to get a criminal conviction. In one case, a man who operated his business for years, paid his taxes, fed his family, and supplied many with a good quality product was prosecuted by the feds and ended up losing his house, his savings, and his health (he had a stroke from the stress and pressure) – but there was no conviction! Shortly after the charges against him were dropped, he died.

        As long as fed factions have the power to ruin your life, the uncertainty will guarantee that the industry stays under-capitalized and small. It’s evil and wrong, but it does have a positive side on States like WA and CO that have legalized. As long as you stay small.

        • Duncan20903 says:


          Oakland’s legal action is and always has been a sideshow. It’s nice to see the City stand up for its cashflow one of its legally licensed businesses but at the end of the headline the day after its action was filed people who had a basic grasp of the law knew that it was gong to be dismissed for plaintiff’s lack of standing. I’ve got no clue what the story linked in Rick’s post means by “Harborside can claim a symbolic victory in the fact that Oakland tried to get the federal government to back off, but in the end it still looks like Harborside’s legal challenge is a longshot. And if they lose, they likely face closure. Unless Harborside can find a new location, that will mean a significant loss of tax revenue for the city.” The instant legal challenge for Harborside was eviction proceedings initiated by their landlord under duress from the Feds, not by the Feds. The landlords have lost in both State and Federal Court proceedings.

          Judge in San Francisco lets biggest medical pot shop stay open

          But U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James ruled that the government, not the landlords, must move to evict Harborside for its alleged violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act.

          The landlords “are attempting to use a procedural rule in a civil forfeiture proceeding to bring what amounts to an enforcement action … against Harborside,” the 17-page ruling said. “This is a measure which the Government – the entity charged with enforcing the statute – has elected not to pursue.”

          Barring proceedings in an Appeals Court this proceeding is a done deal and Harborside ain’t getting evicted by the current landlord. The fact that the landlord pursued the eviction in Federal Court rather than the California Court of Appeals tells me that its lawyer thinks that they haven’t got the proverbial snowball’s chance of prevailing in the State Court of Appeals because the landlord filing in Federal Court is only slightly less absurd than the City of Oakland’s pleading. Political grandstanding happens on both sides of the aisle. The State of California does not enforce Federal law. All cheesy card game metaphors are dismissed out of hand for being hyperbolic hogwash.

          Unless I’m missing some information if the Feds pursue this the only way they have standing in civil court to evict is if they steal the property and become the landlord. But that point seems moot because it would seem much more logical to predict that the next step is in Federal criminal court with Stevie D and any other Harborside directors represented by defense counsel. Likely advice from counsel: bend over, put your head between your knees, kiss your ass goodbye.

          If you’re confused there’s a good reason for that. The entire mess is part of an arcane legal clusterfuck. Just because a landlord puts a clause in the lease doesn’t mean that its enforceable. You learn that in the very early days in landlord school but also that they don’t teach that to lessees. The only cause for eviction in State Court is violation of State law which Harborside has scrupulously avoiding doing. Ooops, we can’t forget about contract fraud, but that’s why the landlord lost in State Court. Harborside did not deceive the landlord about its business.

          At the end of the day The City of Oakland lost. But the reality of the law tells me that their purpose wasn’t to prevail, it was to send a message to the Feds that if they pursue the forfeiture action of the defense that the landlord is going to use. Unlike the City the landlord does have standing. Will it prevail? I don’t have a clue but the arguments aren’t to be dismissed out of hand, in particular the SOL argument. The Feds lying to the City not so much. They’re legally entitled to lie, cheat, and steal by Federal law to prosecute the war on (some) drugs.

          I don’t know if you’re familiar with the property that Harborside leases in Oakland but I’ve been there. We’re talking about a piece of property that’s assessed for just over $1.06 million and owned by a moneyed corporation with fatcat civil lawyers on retainer. They’re not going quietly into that good night on this issue and the SOL may well leave the Feds shit out of luck unless they’re willing to steal a property from a landlord that is unable to evict. Not that that’s even close to unlikely by any stretch of the imagination.

          Disclaimer: IANAL and everything above is in my (formally) uneducated opinion and is limited to the Oakland property.

  4. Jose79845 says:

    Oakland will keep getting $100,000 per month in marijuana tax revenue to pursue their lawsuit against the feds. The feds will try to confiscate assets along the way to fund their defense but hopefully sequestration will make it more difficult.

  5. Duncan20903 says:


    I’ve never even thought it wise to assume that the Drugzar is either literate, numerate, or has the benefit of even a GED. I’m sure he has someone to take dictation and mastering 3rd grade level mathematics sure wouldn’t help his mission. (The above gratuitous insult includes, but most certainly isn’t limited to Mr. Kerlikowske.)

  6. darkcycle says:

    I dunno, Pete, that was the first answer to the very first question…droop didn’t sound frustrated…yet. And I fully believe they would send this balloon up via a Canadian Magazine. It so fits.
    Like Divadab said, this is not all bad from a practical standpoint, and I predicted months ago (as did Diva and several others)we were heading for a grey market situation here. The underground growers are breathing a sigh of relief right about now, too. But it’s NOT the situation we want. That situation still leaves the sale unregulated and the taxes uncollected. It doesn’t give us the chance to do it right, and point to ours as an example for the States that follow. And it gives Uncle leverage, too much leverage. I knew this was likely going to be the response, I think Obushma just want to turn the country over to his successor with prohibition intact (just like he’s gonna give them the endless wars, intact, and Guantanamo-intact, and the current fossil fuel/oil driven foreign policy-intact, and the domestic spying apparatus-intact and robust. Obushma was never going to reform anything. He’s a placekeeper…a book mark)

    • divadab says:

      C’mon, DC, Obama did implement Romney-style universal health insurance nationally. He is a pleaser (like most successful politicians), not a leader, but given the constraints on him, he’s actually accomplished something.

      But he won’t go up against the prison-industrial complex or the military-industrial complex in an substantive way and that’s why, IMHO, he won’t do anything substantial to end prohibition. He’s afraid of appearing weak.

      • bjorn stad says:

        how do you and dc know soooooo much? could it be in your imagined day dream? yeah that’s it!

        • allan says:

          oh c’mon… if you’re gonna fart on the couch, leave us something that shows you’re not just all stink. Any idjit wid a qwertie can fart online. Let’s see you demonstrate some knowledge…

        • darkcycle says:

          Naw, we’re just smarter than you.

        • Duncan20903 says:


          Thanks for stopping by bjorn. We really do need a resident troll in this column. A real one, not a fictional wiggler dude. Are you interested in a position which will require your regular belittlement and being the object of gratuitous insults? Drop your trousers, bend over and let’s see if you qualify!

        • Duncan20903 says:

          Now this is just plain funny!

          Björnstad syndrome

          Björnstad syndrome is a congenital condition involving deafness and hair abnormalities.

          But don’t you know bjorn, a cannabinoid topical cream just might cure your pili torti (AKA perpetual bad hair day)? The scalp is just lousy with CB-2 receptors. Don’t worry, CB-2s won’t get you high, that’s done by the CB-1s.

    • Peter says:

      “I fully believe they would send this balloon up via a Canadian Magazine. It so fits.”
      It’s the same pattern as Obama’s first comments on drug legalization after the election…”I’ve got bigger fish to fry than pot smokers”… delivered in a folksy interview with Michelle and Barbara Walters. They seem to think that if the medium is casual, or foreign, no one will notice their nervousness.

      • Me suspects that Obama sold his soul to be President – note how puffed he was by the media as such a candidate during his 1st term as a US Senator – and that part of the bargain was for him to remain loyal to this manifestation of the inquisition known as the ‘war on drugs’.

  7. claygooding says:

    At the worst case scenario all the feds will do is make the criminals/lawyers richer,,I get those guys mixed up.
    I think most of us should be proud that the drug czar thinks we are producing enough homegrown but that is just more propaganda,,by next year he will be claiming Mexico doesn’t make a dime on marijuana,,pay no attention to the weekly multi-ton busts on the border.

  8. Pete says:

    Looks like Dominic Holden had pretty much the same idea I had at almost exactly the same time (I think I beat him by about 15 minutes). Don’t Believe Everything You Read About the Feds Cracking Down on Pot Legalization

    Again, it’s not that it won’t happen, just that neither of us thinks that this interview with Kerlikowske is any kind of new official statement.

  9. darkcycle says:

    Matt Taibbi is good for some righteous indignation…just in case this thread didn’t have you grinding your teeth down to nubs, this will make your dentist happy:

    • claygooding says:

      Hell,,the US/UN forces still “control” the Happy Valley in AFG and next years crop looks like it will be a bumper crop,,while our police are spending millions eradicating 10% of the homegrown marijuana,,joke?

    • primus says:

      He has it exactly correct. If one has lots of money, one never goes to jail, just pay a fine. In this case, seeing as the bank ‘participated in the distribution of’ many many tons of illegal drugs, the fines should be proportionately higher. If one of us had ‘participated’ our lives would be ruined, our possessions would be gone, and we would spend many years behind bars. If the law was administered in a consistent way, those who did these deeds for the bank, those who oversaw their activities and whoever at the bank turned a blind eye, should all be treated the same as we would be, and both the individuals and the bank should be relieved of all their properties, money and assets that can be reached by the government and those individuals should spend many years behind bars. Of course they are not consistent, they wouldn’t want to hurt any of their rich friends, now would they?

    • allan says:

      yeah… matt lays it out for all to see.

      A man, elderly and obviously in ill health, loved by friends and family, worked all his life for the little he has, goes to prison for gardening and dies. Some rich MFs launder billions for the drug cartels and have to dip into their bail-out stash (our bail out cash) to pay the fine.

      When Mammon rules, there are no rules save those rules that ensure Mammon rules. Climate change, as dire as that circumstance is, pales in the face of the social disaster staring us straight in the eye right now.

      The western march has always been profit first and deal w/ the oopsies much later. There are systems that enrich the living environment and there are systems that only extract.

      Any trailside scatologists out there? Take a gander and tell me – how healthy is this civilization’s scat?

      I envy folks like Kap and brian b (and a whole lot of others). My mind has never been that organized. When I look back at me as a kid and put me in today’s world… I’d have been on Ritalin at about 9. Fortunately I loved nature and found whatever wild nooks and crannies still existing in SoCal in the ’50s and ’60s. I was a wild child. Only outdoors could I truly concentrate. I could sit for hours watching birds and critters and chasing bugs and reptiles but in a classroom… not so much.

      And I’m smart. My parents knew what my IQ is (I haven’t a clue) and were always disappointed in my grades and performance in school. But I’m a practical smart. I work with my hands and my brain (and my aching back). And at 61 I’m still distracted. I need to be covering a lot of ground subject-wise when I’m online and to focus on words and data makes my eyes cross and I begin to hear the draft between my ears…

      And thanks to all the organized-smart type folks I don’t need to store a lot of that kind of info in my head.

      And what all that has to do with the topic at hand… I haven’t a clue.

      No, serially, the drug war is a big part of the Mammonites’ bag.

      There is nothing about the wod that enriches the living environment (quite the opposite) and there is nothing about the wod that enriches the social/cultural environment. It’s a lose/lose. Except for Mammon.

      I think that this system, this resource extraction/consumption based economy, will break apart as surely as the USSR dissolved. Things that are so top heavy require a strong base (like a redwood tree)… but the base of this current civilization is withering and the body diseased (thus the toxic poop).

      Signs of madness are global. When so many are in need and so few take so much and wallow in glaring public displays of opulence and the middle idolizes the few… lord we’re in sad shape.

      I’ve long been a big fan of the global epiphany. Unfortunately as I get older reality quashes my hope (not you Hope!) that out of all this, better things would rise. The tide of humanity says that all this will pass.

  10. Coinspinner says:

    What will Federal Prosecutors do?

    Probably be total complete cocks like they’ve been for 40 years.

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  14. allan says:

    so… two Russian stoners were driving down the road and one asks, “so Ilya, you have light for this doobski”…

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