But in June of this year, the DOJ release the "Cole memo," by Deputy Attorney General James Cole, which it said "clarifies" the Ogden memo. In fact, it reversed the position, stating unequivocally that federal marijuana prohibition prevails and "state laws or local ordinances are not a defense to civil or criminal enforcement of federal law with respect to such conduct."
"They're bringing the hammer down," said David Goldman, who works for Americans for Safe Access and sits on San Francisco's medical marijuana task force. "This is not U.S. attorneys doing this on their own, this is coming from the top levels of the DOJ."
Actually, Goldman and others suspect it goes even higher than that, right to Obama and his political team, who appear to be making a calculation that cracking down on medical marijuana is a good move before an uncertain reelection campaign.
"It's political. It's all about Obama appealing to the middle to win reelection," Goldman said.
"I don't think there's any rational basis for what's going on. It was clearly a political calculation," DeAngelo said. "Why do they think it's better for patients to buy their medicine from the black market?"
He said the crackdown will bolster the Mexican drug cartels, destroy a thriving industry that provides jobs and pays taxes, hinder efforts at better quality control and growing conditions (see "Green buds," Aug. 16), and waste law enforcement resources to seize and destroy a valuable commodity.
"It's a policy with all downsides and no upsides," DeAngelo said.
Mirkarimi said that this crackdown could finally force cannabis activists to take on the federal prohibition of marijuana directly: "Bottom line, marijuana is the United States needs to be reformed so it's not a Schedule 1 drug," referring the federal government's conclusion that marijuana is a dangerous drug with no medical applications.
But for now, DeAngelo said the industry will fight back: "We will fight it in the legal system, we will fight it in the court of public opinion, and we will appeal to Congress."