INHALE TO THE CHIEF: DOJ Instructs Prosecutors To Stop Wasting Time And Money Busting People In Compliance With State Medical Marijuana Laws

[Artwork by REUBENSLP]

ASSOCIATED PRESS: The Obama administration will not seek to arrest medical marijuana users and suppliers as long as they conform to state laws, under new policy guidelines to be sent to federal prosecutors Monday. Two Justice Department officials described the new policy to The Associated Press, saying prosecutors will be told it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state laws. The new policy is a significant departure from the Bush administration, which insisted it would continue to enforce federal anti-pot laws regardless of state codes. Fourteen states allow some use of marijuana for medical purposes: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. MORE

ASSOCIATED PRESS: Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said last week he wants to shutter obama_weed_photosculpture_p15362486056265178535xz_400.jpgclinics that sell pot for profit. Cooley’s plan is the latest salvo in a prolonged conflict in California over whether medical marijuana is truly having its intended effect or is being abused by the larger population. Until recently, raids on clinics typically led to federal prosecutions, but Cooley’s remarks and similar ones from Attorney General Jerry Brown signal a new approach to clear the haze left by Proposition 215, the 1996 state ballot measure that allowed sick people with referrals from doctors and an identification card to smoke pot. “Everybody is scared,” said Tepel, who has spoken with other pot store operators. “Why are voters’ rights being stepped all over? This kind of blind justice has to stop.” The crackdown is a crushing blow for dispensary owners who were relieved earlier this year when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said federal agents would only target marijuana distributors who violate both federal and state laws. Under federal law, marijuana is illegal. Holder’s comments appear to have emboldened entrepreneurs as marijuana shops cropped up across California. In Los Angeles alone, there are an estimated 800 dispensaries, more than any other city in the nation. In 2005, there were only four, authorities said. MORE

DREAMS OF MY FATHER: “Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it. Not smack, though.”


BOSTON GLOBE: Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said Obama believes the public plan is still the “best possible choice,’’ but she said he’s not demanding it. White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who is deeply involved with Democrats in trying to merge the various committee proposals, also appeared to set aside the public option. “It’s not the defining piece of health care. It’s whether we achieve both cost control, coverage, as well as the choice,’’ Emanuel said. MORE

NEW YORK OBSERVER: There’s also a more basic imperative for the president: He badly needs to be seen as having scored a political victory on health care, an issue that has flummoxed and undermined presidents for decades. The promise of his presidency was and remains transformational change, but his critics—with increasing support from mainstream outlets—are starting to score points with the claim that he really hasn’t done much. A health care signing ceremony would serve as a powerful refutation of this contention. Understandably, then, the White House view seems to be that some kind of reform bill, even if it ends up watered down and laughably limited in scope, is better than no reform bill—so why let a sticky subject like the public option be the deal-breaker? Reinforcing this sense is the fact that the public option, even in the context of the most generous and expansive legislation now under consideration, would only affect a sliver of Americans—mainly small business employees and individuals not covered by employer plans. The vast majority of Americans would be ineligible to buy in even if they wanted to. The White House seems to have concluded that there’s no good reason to go to war over something that affects so few. MORE

HUFFINGTON POST: More than three out of every four Americans feel it is important to have a “choice” lobbyist.gifbetween a government-run health care insurance option and private coverage, according to a public opinion poll released on Thursday.  A new study by SurveyUSA puts support for a public option at a robust 77 percent, one percentage point higher than where it stood in June. MORE

CBS NEWS: In his speech, Mr. Obama argued that a public health option, health exchanges, and other reforms would increase competition in the health insurance marketplace. While 46 percent of Americans agree with the president, 19 percent disagree, and 26 percent say there would be no impact. MORE

TALK LEFT: While [some] are spinning as hard as they can against the public option, it is worth noting that the Washington Post poll they are using for this purpose actually shows 76% support the current public option proposals. MORE

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Here’s a problem for the GOP, high-lighted in the latest Quinnipiac University poll. The party’s attacks on health care reform, led by charges of a government takeover, seem to have pounded down American opinion not just on the President’s health reform efforts, but on their own image. And more, one thing that remains broadly popular: a government-run health insurance option. Here are the numbers. President Obama remains reasonably popular with a 50% job approval rating, even though only 40% of folks like his health care reform push, compared to 47% who do not. What they do like is the public option, by a very healthy 61% to 34% margin. MORE


ATLANTIC: As liberal Democrats will try (and are expected to fail) to add a public-option provision to flying_saucer_girl.jpgChairman Max Baucus’s health care bill this week in the Senate Finance Committee, Media Matters for America points out that more Americans believe in UFOs than oppose the public option. It sounds outlandish, but it’s about right: a 2007 Associated Press poll (cited by Media Matters) finds that 34 percent of Americans believe in the existence of UFOs. Meanwhile, anywhere from 26 to 42 percent oppose the public option, according to recent major polls not commissioned by backers or opponents of said option. MORE

HUFFINGTONPOST: In a bold push to pass a public option for insurance coverage, a progressive advocacy group is launching an ad campaign directly calling into question the toughness of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. MORE


NEW YORK TIMES: Success takes time, but how much time does Stanley McChrystal have? The war in Afghanistan is now in its ninth year. The Taliban, measured by the number of their attacks, are stronger than at any time since the Americans toppled their government at the end of 2001. American soldiers and Marines are dying at a faster rate than ever before. Polls in the United States show that opposition to the war is growing steadily. Worse yet, for all of America’s time in Afghanistan — for all the money and all the blood — the lack of mcchrystal_nyt_mag.jpgaccomplishment is manifest wherever you go. In Garmsir, there is nothing remotely resembling a modern state that could take over if America and its NATO allies left. Tour the country with a general, and you will see very quickly how vast and forbidding this country is and how paltry the effort has been.

And finally, there is the government in Kabul. President Hamid Karzai, once the darling of the West, rose to the top of nationwide elections in August on what appears to be a tide of fraud. The Americans and their NATO allies are confronting the possibility that the government they are supporting, building and defending is a rotten shell. In his initial assessment of the country, sent to President Obama early last month, McChrystal described an Afghanistan on the brink of collapse and an America at the edge of defeat. To reverse the course of the war, McChrystal presented President Obama with what could be the most momentous foreign-policy decision of his presidency: escalate or fail. McChrystal has reportedly asked for 40,000 additional American troops — there are 65,000 already here — and an accelerated effort to train Afghan troops and police and build an Afghan state. If President Obama can’t bring himself to step up the fight, McChrystal suggested, then he might as well give up.

“Inadequate resources,” McChrystal wrote, “will likely result in failure.” The magnitude of the choice presented by McChrystal, and now facing President Obama, is difficult to overstate. For what McChrystal is proposing is not a temporary, Iraq-style surge — a rapid influx of American troops followed by a withdrawal. McChrystal’s plan is a blueprint for an extensive American commitment to build a modern state in Afghanistan, where one has never existed, and to bring order to a place famous for the empires it has exhausted. Even under the best of circumstances, this effort would most likely last many more years, cost hundreds of billions of dollars and entail the deaths of many more American women and men. And that’s if it succeeds. MORE

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Washington — Before President Obama 09karzai_500.jpgcommits additional troops to Afghanistan, the U.S. needs assurances that Afghan leaders preside over a stable government that is legitimate in the eyes of its citizens, top Democratic officials said in TV appearances Sunday. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said the overriding question facing the Obama administration is whether it has “a credible Afghan partner for this process that can provide the security and the type of services that the Afghan people need.” The White House is in the midst of a full-scale review of its strategy in Afghanistan. Options include adding tens of thousands of troops in a renewed bid to stabilize the country, as U.S. Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal wants, or narrowing the mission to focus on subduing the Taliban. The White House has devoted five meetings to its Afghan review, with more scheduled over the next two weeks, Emanuel said. Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who is visiting Afghanistan, endorsed the White House’s approach, saying Sunday that it would be premature to deploy more troops without a clear picture of the nation’s overall political condition. Kerry held talks with McChrystal, the U.S. and allied commander in Afghanistan, and also met with officials in Pakistan. “I don’t see how President Obama can make a decision about the committing of our additional forces or even the further fulfillment of our mission that’s here today without an adequate government in place or knowledge about what that government is going to be,” Kerry, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “So there’s some very fundamental questions that have to be answered about the status of the Afghan government.” MORE

AFP: A report into mass fraud allegations that have tainted Afghanistan’s presidential election is to be released Monday with President Hamid Karzai under intense pressure to accept a possible run-off. The results of investigations by the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) will form the basis of a decision on whether Afghanistan can finally declare a new president or must go to the polls for a second time. The paralysis since the August 20 election has angered Afghanistan’s backers. Senior US officials now say a political resolution is essential if President Barack Obama is to authorize extra troops to fight the Taliban. The report is expected to cut Karzai’s lead from 55 percent in preliminary results, possibly triggering a run-off as the victor must have 50 percent plus one vote to form a new government. Karzai’s main rival, ex-foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, has 28 percent and has spearheaded vote-rigging accusations against the president, once a darling of the West whose administration is accused of rampant corruption. MORE

opium-poppy.jpgNEW YORK TIMES: The Taliban in Afghanistan are running a sophisticated financial network to pay for their insurgent operations, raising hundreds of millions of dollars from the illicit drug trade, kidnappings, extortion and foreign donations that American officials say they are struggling to cut off. In Afghanistan, the Taliban have imposed an elaborate system to tax the cultivation, processing and shipment of opium, as well as other crops like wheat grown in the territory they control, American and Afghan officials say. In the Middle East, Taliban leaders have sent fund-raisers to Arab countries to keep the insurgency’s coffers brimming with cash. Estimates of the Taliban’s annual revenue vary widely. Proceeds from the illicit drug trade alone range from $70 million to $400 million a year, according to Pentagon and United Nations officials. By diversifying their revenue stream beyond opium, the Taliban are frustrating American and NATO efforts to weaken the insurgency by cutting off its economic lifelines, the officials say. Despite efforts by the United States and its allies in the last year to cripple the Taliban’s financing, using the military and intelligence, American officials acknowledge they barely made a dent. MORE

[Hamid Karzai photo by Lynsey Addario/VII Network]

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