"This is the beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition."
That's what a Denver dispensary owner told the New York Times last week in response to what's being called (by some) a historic memo from Attorney General Eric Holder. In his long-awaited response to the legalization of weed-for-fun in Colorado and Washington, Holder said the U.S. Department of Justice won't sue to stop the laws, and he told federal prosecutors not to mess with marijuana users or businesses as long as they comply with state laws and don't run afoul of eight federal enforcement priorities (keep it away from kids and cartels, no toking and driving, no growing on public land, etc.).
Many hailed the memo as the dawn of a new day, one in which regulation will replace prohibition. But here in California, industry insiders were less sanguine. After all, they remember the Obama administration saying something very similar back in March 2009. That's when Holder announced that the Bush-era raids on medical marijuana dispensaries would end. They didn't, obviously. The Justice Department has since shut down (or intimidated into closure) hundreds of state-legal dispensaries in California. Arcata's Humboldt Medical Supply, for example, closed last year after being notified by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag that it was within 1,000 feet of a playground. That "playground" was the Arcata Ball Park, site of much drunken revelry and zero playground equipment.
Haag, who oversees California's Northern District, is also responsible for dismantling Mendocino County's zip-tie registration program, and she's currently trying to seize the assets and property of several Bay Area dispensaries, including Oakland's Harborside Health Center.
Obama's periodic head-fakes toward Drug War pragmatism haven't done a thing to slow Haag's ham-fisted crusade against the devil weed. And it doesn't look like Holder's "historic" memo will have much effect either. On Friday, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office Northern District told the East Bay Express, "[F]or the most part it appears that the cases that have been brought in this district are already in compliance [with the new guidelines]. Therefore, we do not expect a significant change."
Other tidbits from the week in weed:
• Marijuana is the most popular illegal drug on the planet. That completely unsurprising finding came from the first-ever global survey of illicit drug use, published last week by the University of Washington. Meanwhile, legal painkillers were found to be the most lethal addiction.
• The Rim Fire that's currently eating up Yosemite may have been sparked by an illegal marijuana grow. That's what a local fire official told a community meeting on Aug. 23. A YouTube video of his talk only recently came to the attention of media outlets. [UPDATE 9/5/13: Officials now say the fire was caused by a hunter's illegal campfire.]
• In Monday's Times-Standard, Thadeus Greenson reported on five local men facing federal prison sentences of up to 20 years and a fine of up to $1 million for allegedly supplying a multi-state drug ring with local homegrown. Court documents suggest that three of the men may be informing on their partners in Montana.
• A marijuana grower in upstate New York accidentally killed himself with his own booby trap on Saturday. Police said the 50-year-old man was nearly decapitated when he drunk-drove his four-wheeler through a nearly invisible line of piano wire, which he'd strung up to protect his crop.
• Pot blog Smell the Truth published a list of the best marijuana strains for treating depression, as reported by patients. Among the choices: "Juicy Fruit," "Sweet Island Skunk" and "Trainwreck," which is described as "a mythic sativa from Arcata, Calif. ... Use it to clean your house."