The Myth of Godfather Journalism

A few hours after Carmine Galante was blown away in Bushwick with the cigar clenched in his mouth, a federal prosecutor began to reach out for his undercover informants in the mafia. No law enforcement agency had a tail on Galante the day he was shot, and the prosecutor wanted to know who arranged for the execution.

His informants didn’t know any­thing, either. But they all get money or immunity from law enforcement for providing information, and they were afraid to admit they knew no secrets. The informants feared they would lose status, or credibility, or even their jobs if they confessed their ignorance. So they all invented theo­ries for Lilo’s demise and attributed them to “word on the street” and other ephemeral sources.

Soon reporters were calling this federal prosecutor, demanding the in­side story of why Galante was hit. The prosecutor did not know, just as his informants did not know. But he could not confess his ignorance to the media, just as his undercovers could not confess their ignorance to him. One television reporter said to the prosecutor: “Just give me your rankest speculation.”

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The prosecutor is close to indicting a mafioso of unusual political in­fluence. He was tempted to anoint this targeted gangster as the next godfather, so that his indictment would receive more publicity, and he would get a bigger budget. He knew that Galante was not the godfather. He knew the mob hasn’t had a boss of bosses since Lucky Luciano, but that the media has a need to name new godfathers with the frequency of new Miss Subways. The prosecutor, unusually honorable, said “no comment” to the reporter. The disap­pointed reporter, who had never in­terviewed an actual working hoodlum in his life, announced he would just have to “work from the clips.”

The preceding anecdote is true and accurately reflects the state of the art of godfather journalism; most mafia report­ing is a consumer fraud.

For example, the headline in Sunday’s Daily News said: RIVALS FEASTED WHILE GALANTE DIED. The story reported that “20 mob bosses” celebrated Galante’s execution by having lunch at Bamonte’s Restaurant at 32 Withers Street in Brooklyn. The detailed account described “rented limousines” lined up outside the restaurant, and even reported that “a phone call to Bamonte’s­ — minutes after the execution — advised the chairman of the crime conference that the contract on Galante had been carried out.”

However, the New York City Police Department, the FBI, the Drug Enforce­ment Administration, the Brooklyn D.A.’s office, and the federal Organized Crime Strike Force all say they have no knowledge of such an event occurring. The proprietor of Bamonte’s denies the whole story, and his attorney promises he will sue the News. The idea of a lavish linguini feast of celebration by 20 mob bosses would have been a nice scene for a movie. But is it true?

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In fact, the public’s impression — and much of the media’s knowledge — about the mafia owes a large debt to the imagery of Hollywood. Most people think gangsters act like George Raft, Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart, John Garfield, Richard Widmark, Al Pacino, and Marlon Brando.

The power of the film fantasy is so great that when Joey Gallo was growing up in Brooklyn he went to see Richard Widmark play Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death a dozen times. Gallo, then an aspiring thug, began to imitate Widmark’s posture, body language, slang, and style of dress. Years later, when Hollywood was preparing to make another syndicate movie, and Gallo was by then a chic mafia symbol, an actor asked Gallo if he could hang out with him to study some of his macho mannerisms, the same mannerisms that Gallo had borrowed from another actor a generation before.

This story suggests some of the difficulty in separating myth from reality, lore and legend from fact in understanding organized crime. Movies (and novels and Bob Dylan) have romanticized mafia dons. They are not immigrant populists, or outlaw philosophers with benevolent dignity, or tragic half-ethical super-dons who draw a fine moral distinction at pushing white powder.

Most mobsters would rather stick an icepick in your ear than work. Many are so cheap they won’t pay for their own cappuccino on Mulberry Street. Joey Gallo used to beat up his wife. Lucky Luciano was a pimp. Carmine Galante was an animal whose wealth came from import­ing, distributing, and selling the heroin that went into the veins of ghetto schoolchildren.

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The mafia is not a hierarchical corpo­ration. There is no single chief executive officer. There is no stenographer who takes shorthand minutes at board of directors’ meetings. There is no neat organization chart, no regular merit promotions. When Ed Kosner was fired as the editor of Newsweek, a press release went out saying he was being replaced by Lester Bernstein. When Lyman Hamilton was ousted as chief executive officer of ITT last week, it was announced that Rand Araskog, the senior executive vice-presi­dent, would replace Hamilton. But the mafia did not distribute a press release after Carlo Gambino died announcing that he was being replaced as godfather by Carmine Galante.

The fact is that Galante was nominated for godfather by the Unified Intelligence Division (UID) of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). They knew him because he was into heroin. The UID had a “confidential” 59-page report done on Galante under the signature of a single investigator, Special Agent Michael Cun­niff. The report — completed in December of 1976 — was filled with contradictions, hedging qualifications, hearsay, gossip, raw surveillance anecdotes, and “investigative leads.”

The ambiguous nature of the report was captured by one sentence on page six: “Galante is allegedly now the de facto head of the Bonanno La Cosa Nostra family and, according to information from under­world sources, he is a strong candidate for the post of capo di tutti capi.” At another point the UID document observed, “Many Gambino family members believe that Galante is only a tool for Joe Bonnano.”

This classified document was im­mediately leaked to the press, possibly by the DEA, which was then in a bureau­cratic fight to avoid being brought under the jurisdiction of the FBI, because of its own reputation for corruption.

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On Sunday, February 20, 1977, The New York Times published a front-page story under the headline: AN OBSCURE GANGSTER IS EMERGING AS THE MAFIA CHIEFTAIN IN NEW YORK. The story launched the Galante-for-Godfather hype, and seemed clearly based on the UID report. The Times’s story, though it lacked the report’s cautious hedgings, was filled with echoes of undigested surveillance trivia: “If you went to Balducci’s in Greenwich Village, you might well see Carmine Galante… pick over artichokes and tomatoes… or near the L&T cleaners at 245 Elizabeth Street, where he re­portedly operates.”

The next day, New York hit the news­stands with a cover story called “Meet the New Godfather.” The story began with a detailed narrative description of DEA agents following Galante as he left his apartment on Waverly Place. The article flatly declared that Galante’s “peers of the Commission, a nine-member national panel of family bosses that is the supreme court and board of directors of the American Mafia, will soon name him capo di tutti capi (‘boss of all bosses’)… Galante already runs more rackets here and abroad than Don Carlo did. And at the rate his empire is expanding, it will soon surpass the worldwide holdings of the late Lucky Luciano.”

The DEA had done for Galante what the promotional talent of Jon Landau had done for Bruce Springsteen. And over­night, Carmine Galante joined Elliot Richardson and Bess Myerson as the three most overrated people in America. The fact was that Galante’s gang only had 200 street level members and was the fourth largest in New York City.

Eighteen months later (August 21, 1978), New York published another story, by another crime reporter, announcing that another crime boss, Funzi Tieri, “until now a shadowy figure, little known, has clearly emerged in New York City as its most powerful mobster. For the country too, because that is the way it has always been.”

Funzi probably had a more legitimate claim to the mythical title, but even this article was simplistic, exaggerated, and portrayed the mafia as a coherent, hierarchical corporation.

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This week, a wise FBI agent told me: “It’s all bullshit. We don’t really know what’s going on. It’s all tribal warfare with shifting alliances. We are not allowed to put a tail on any of these guys unless we have specific knowledge he has committed a crime.…”

“A few years ago we took movies of Galante at his summer house on Long Island. And we had guys making mafia charts based on these movies. If Galante helped a guy into his house with his suitcase, we decided it was a sign of respect, so the guy must be a big shot, a capo. If Galante didn’t help carry the guy’s bags, we decided he must be a button, or nothing. Maybe Galante just had a bad back one day. Or felt tired. And we were making serious charts based on meaningless gestures which newspapers printed as if it was definite…

“I once had an informant who told me all sorts of stories. Later I found out the guy was simultaneously an informant to the New York City Police Department, only I didn’t know it. What he was telling the police was completely different than what he was telling the bureau. And we were both paying him for his bullshit.”

The truth is that almost nobody has reliable information about the inner workings of the mafia. The mafia is not like a government agency, where a disgruntled bureaucrat will duplicate an embarrassing memo and leak it to a reporter. Serious gangsters don’t talk to anyone, much less journalists, about their last contract killing or kilo shipment of junk.

Most reporters who write about or­ganized crime must rely on law enforce­ment agencies for their information. (A few journalists have relatives who are connected, but they don’t put their bylines on stories.) Law enforcement agencies — many of whom know next to nothing themselves — have a built-in motive to exaggerate: bigger budgets derived from greater publicity. Since they have a near monopoly on the raw data, it’s impossible to independently verify the truth of what they’re leaking. So, at best, what appears in the papers now is “rank speculation.” At worst, it is imaginative writing based on clippings, puffery from informants, and the memory of movies.

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Law enforcement ignorance about the mafia is reflected by the fact that none of the publicized killings of godfathers has led to any trials or convictions for those crimes. No one was ever convicted for killing Albert Anastasia at the Park Sheraton Hotel in 1957, or Joey Gallo, or Tommy Eboli. The contract murder of mob lawyer Gino Gallina on Carmine Street has never been solved. No one has been prosecuted for shooting Sam Giancana.

Moreover, the local media mythology that whoever rules Mulberry Street is the capo di tutti capi is Old World romance. Power in the mafia, like power in the American economy, has shifted to the Sun Belt. Santo Trafficante in Miami and Carlos Marcello in New Orleans represent power much more serious and subtle than Carmine Galante ever dreamed of.

And at a totally different level there is a form of mega-mafia in America that flourishes on the elite margin, where busi­nessmen act like gangsters, and gangsters act like businessmen, and almost every company has access to a slush fund in the Bahamas or a Swiss bank account. These people and their companies don’t have ethnic rituals or “mob wars,” but they have tremendous economic and political power.

As Paul Du Brul and I noted in The Abuse of Power, this is the shadow realm of Sidney Korshak, Meyer Lansky, Richard Kleindienst, Adnan Khashoggi, John Cody, Congressman Dan Flood, Spiro Agnew, Alvin Malnick, Robert Vesco, Frank Fitzsimmons, Bebe Rebozo, Bert Lance, and the Shah of Iran and all his exiled bagmen. This is where crime, labor, and corporate power converge and become almost indistinguishable.

There is no one mafia godfather. There is no capo di tutti capi. There are just law enforcement agencies trying to arrest gangs of career criminals. And newspaper publishers trying to improve circulation.

The rest is hype, the rest is myth.


Obama tries to hack medical marijuana off at the knees

The new federal crackdown on medical marijuana announced on October 7 by the four California U.S. Attorneys sent chills throughout the industry. It was a stunning reversal by the Obama administration.

Only two years ago, Deputy U.S. Attorney General David Ogden wrote his infamous “Ogden Memo,” announcing the feds wouldn’t bother businesses in compliance with their own state laws. It proved a dose of Miracle-Gro to California, where pot-selling stores multiplied since voters approved the state’s 1996 medical marijuana law. By late last year, California reportedly had more dispensaries than Starbucks outlets.

Colorado also made it legal in 2000, seeing a similar explosion of new storefronts. The same thing was happening to varying degrees in 16 states, from Arizona to Washington, New Jersey to Delaware.

But the feds’ tolerance wasn’t quite what it seemed. While legal weed grew to an estimated $10 to $100 billion industry – no one’s quite sure of the exact figure – activists noticed an alarming undercurrent to the rhetoric: Raids on growers and dispensaries actually increased under Obama.

As hundreds of thousands of state-approved, doctor-recommended patients happily bought their medicine in well-lit stores from knowledgeable “budtenders,” the ire of cops and prohibitionists rose.

The first sign of Obama’s subterfuge came in late 2010, as California prepared to vote on a ballot proposition that would have legalized growing and possessing small amounts of marijuana for anyone over the age of 21. Under pressure from teetotalers — nine former Drug Enforcement Agency chiefs begged Obama to oppose the measure — Attorney General Eric Holder said that it didn’t matter what Californians thought. The feds would continue to bust people regardless of the election.

The measure got 46 percent of the vote, but not enough to pass. Yet the medical side of things kept going strong – too strong for Obama.

When the Oakland City Council prepared to authorize large-scale cultivation centers, Melinda Haag, the U.S. Attorney for California’s Northern District, issued the first in what would become a series of letters from her fellow attorneys general. She reminded residents – in no uncertain terms – that marijuana was still criminalized under federal law, considered equal to heroin or meth, irrespective of its medicinal value.

Nor did she care what California law said. Her “core priority” would be to prosecute “business enterprises that unlawfully market and sell marijuana” under federal law.
Over the next few months, attorneys general from Maine to Washington wrote their own increasingly menacing letters. In Washington, the feds even threatened to arrest state workers who helped facilitate the industry.

Then the Obama administration released a new letter to “clarify” Ogden’s memo. Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole verified the about-face: The only people safe from arrest were the “seriously ill” patients and their caregivers.

Everyone else? Be forewarned.

The letter didn’t just target those directly involved in the trade. Cole was also threatening supporting industries – read: banks -with money laundering charges for dealing in the proceeds from marijuana. Obama had launched a full-on attack on the industries essential to any functioning enterprise.

Banks responded by canceling their weed-related accounts. “Perhaps there may be a few financial institutions here or there that are still accepting accounts,” says Caroline Joy, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Bankers Association. “Those facilities don’t want to reveal who they are.”

The president’s push grew louder last month. The U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms bureau warned medical-marijuana patients that they couldn’t legally use pot and own or buy guns.

Then came a one-two punch.

On October 5, the IRS ruled that one of the largest California dispensaries, Harborside Health Center, owed $2.5 million in taxes because federal law precluded standard deductions for businesses engaging in illegal activity.

In other words, Obama was not only blowing off state laws. He was declaring that legal businesses were now nothing more than criminal rackets. And he was carving away every tool they needed to function.

Harborside’s owner said he’d go out of business if the IRS didn’t reverse course. Dispensaries nationwide saw it as a crippling decision.

Then came another blow two days later: The bombshell dropped by California’s four U.S. Attorneys.

They were now going after people who leased stores and land to the pot industry. Violators were given 45 days to close doors, uproot plants, and kick out renters. The penalty for not acting: Seizure of property and arrest.

Laura Duffy, the U.S attorney from California’s Southern District, went so far as to threaten media with prosecution for taking pot advertising. (Disclosure:  This newspaper accepts such ads.)

There was no doubt about it: Obama was intent on killing an entire industry – in the middle of a depression, no less. Left unexplained was why, especially since he was giving the finger to voters in 16 states just a year before he would face them in his own election.

Democratic strategists were perplexed. Roger Salazar, a California party consultant, believes the president may be trying to reach out to a broader base. But that doesn’t explain the attack on his own base; Democrats support medical marijuana at high percentages. It doesn’t even make sense in luring conservatives. With the country in economic tatters, no one has weed high on their radar.

Except one group, says Salazar: “It’s a mystery, I think, it really is, where the pressure is coming from. My sense is it’s coming from law enforcement.”

Certainly Obama’s threats are real. He may be loath to jail landlords, bankers or even dispensary owners. Arresting non-violent, state-sanctioned businesspeople wouldn’t be popular. But his quieter war of chopping merchants off at the knees through credit and leasing would ravage the trade.

Still, the president has thrown himself into an uphill fight. There is reason to believe medical marijuana will persist, despite his betrayal.

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Marijuana really is medicine

Earlier this month, in a timely coincidence, the California Medical Association’s board voted to encourage the feds to legalize marijuana.

Though spokeswoman Molly Weedn emphasizes that the decision by the doctors’ group hinges on a call for more research, a report studied by the CMA board before its decision makes it clear that — at the least — marijuana shows promise as a medicine.

The CMA’s Council on Clinical and Scientific Affairs “has also concluded that components of medical cannabis may be effective for the treatment of pain, nausea, anorexia, and other conditions.”

The report goes on to say:

Cannabinoids are presently thought to exhibit their greatest efficacy when implemented for the management of neuropathic pain, which is a form of severe and often chronic pain resulting from nerve injury, disease, or toxicity.

The University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) recently reported to the California legislature the results of a number of studies. Four studies involved the treatment of neuropathic pain; and all four demonstrated a significant improvement in pain after cannabis administration.

The doctors note that while using marijuana may contain risks, such as addiction, they argue that its prohibition may be more dangerous than the drug itself:

Under the current prohibition of cannabis, public health is also affected by increased rates of crime surrounding cannabis cultivation, sale and use. The California Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that the incarceration and parole supervision of cannabis offenders costs the state tens of millions of dollars annually.

Nationally, prohibition burns through billions of dollars in lives lost to the violence inherent in the black market, the incarceration of thousands of productive, non-violent Americans, and the lack of access to a beneficial medicine.

Are lots of people using weed without suffering from a medical problem? Absolutely. But just because you’ve heard that half or more of patients take the drug for “severe and chronic pain” doesn’t mean they’re all faking it.

In June, the Institute of Medicine estimated that 116 million Americans suffer from significant, chronic pain.

As more research comes in showing that pot can be an effective treatment, and with America’s elderly population exploding in the coming decades, the interest in its medicinal qualities seems only likely to rise.

The truth will prevail

Ignorance, false propaganda and rank political posturing tend to be the foundation of the anti-marijuana argument. (Throw in bureaucratic turf protection as well. The DEA, for example, would need fewer agents if pot was decriminalized nationwide.)

A new Gallup poll shows that a record 50 percent of Americans believe marijuana — and not just the medical kind – should be legalized. The poll follows a continuing trend over the past several years of increasing support for legalization.

Obama has chosen to swim against the tide. But there’s reason to believe his fight is about politics, not public safety. If this were about safety, alcohol would be his primary target.

Politics cause both sides to fudge the truth. Yet prohibitionists and the government have been particularly egregious. The government is using taxpayer dollars to prop up its side, with the U.S. Justice Department’s 64-page booklet, ” Speaking Out About Drug Legalization,” being a prime example.

The booklet, distributed in print and online, states that “smoked marijuana is not scientifically approved medicine.” Forget that by labeling it a drug on par with heroin, the DEA is curtailing the proper study of marijuana, since it prevents even scientists from possessing it for research. The publicly-funded propaganda also flies in the face of the opinion of doctors, who see pot’s potential as medicine.

It’s a strategy that’s trickled to states with functionaries unhappy about executing the voters’ will. Last December in Arizona, Will Humble, the state’s  Department of Health Services director, held a news conference about the state’s new Medical Marijuana Act. He took a moment to remind reporters that more than 1,000 Arizonans died last year from accidental overdoses from prescription drugs.

But when asked how many of those died from marijuana, Humble refused to answer — to chuckles from the audience. He referred the question to his chief medical officer, Laura Nelson, who would only say she’d “have to do the research on that” before she could answer.

Then Nelson began stammering about the danger of marijuana due to “car accidents” — though she had done no research on that, either.

The CMA’s new report, interestingly enough, sheds light on statements like Nelson’s. It says that prohibitionists often make unsubstantiated claims about car crashes or other purported harms. Studies disagree on its risks to motorists, though there’s no question that booze increases the chances of a crash, the report says. Moreover, simulated driving tests reveal that pot smokers overestimate their degree of impairment and “compensate effectively.”

If one were a cynic, one might also view U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy’s threat to target advertising as a less than subtle threat to control the debate.

True: Federal law prohibits advertising illegal drugs. Google, for example, agreed to pay a $500 million fine this summer for taking online ads promoting “rogue” Canadian pharmacies.

But pot dispensaries are legal businesses within their states. Under Duffy’s threat, the feds will have their say, while the pro-pot message would be erased from public view.

Kent Scheidegger, legal director for the conservative Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, tells the Phoenix New Times that Duffy’s threat gave him the willies.

”They’re on much thinner ice going after the newspaper,” says Scheidegger, who otherwise believes the feds should enforce its own laws against marijuana. “… Maybe there is a political strategy.”

It’s called the “shut them up” strategy.

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There will be pushback

Federal law is, for now, on the side of the prohibitionists.

Scheidegger downplays the state victories handed to medical marijuana. He says if the American people want to change the law, they need to encourage Congress to do so.

Yet that ignores a basic political reality: It’s extremely difficult for any politician to stand up for marijuana. He or she will be quickly painted as pro-pothead. 

Like women’s suffrage, the medical marijuana movement has — in 10 states, anyway — benefited by the direct democracy of citizens initiatives. These elections have taken the pulse of voters in a way that congressional elections cannot.

In six other states and Washington D.C., medical marijuana was legalized by local lawmakers.

Other states are bound to vote in favor of decriminalizing pot in the next few years in spite of federal laws.

Phoenix attorney Ty Taber sees it as a major states’ rights issue. “Basically, the citizens of these states … they want marijuana legalized,” he says. If Obama wants to play hardball, he says, “You’re going to get pushback.”

Taber represents Compassion First, a company that helps set up dispensaries. The firm sued Arizona after Governor Jan Brewer, in blatant defiance of voters’ wishes, derailed the dispensary portion of Arizona’s new law by instructing the Department of Health to reject applications. She simultaneously sued the federal government, asking a judge to rule on whether the state’s new law was legal. (Ironically, the U.S. Justice Department’s civil department is defending against the lawsuit – and if the feds win, Arizona might just get its first dispensaries.)

Compassion First wants the program implemented as Arizonans intended, and to remove blockades Brewer has thrown in its path. For instance, Arizona requires dispensary owners to have been residents for at least three years.

But the point isn’t so much whether or not the company will win its lawsuit or not — it’s that they’re fighting back, and they’re not alone.

Across the country, advocates are returning fire of their own in the court system. Which means Obama won’t be able to do battle by the relatively cheap means of letters and threats. He’ll likely end up burning through millions of dollars in litigation – money he doesn’t have.

Taber thinks the president may have underestimated his foe.  “The people behind this marijuana movement — they’re committed. They are zealots. And these are smart people — not stoners saying, ‘Hey dude, pass another slice of pizza.'”

Half-hearted crackdowns don’t work

The latest crackdown will be bad for the pot business. No question. But Obama could be doing much, much more.

He could go after patients. Over the summer, a federal judge ruled that the DEA could peek at the names on Michigan’s patient registry. Because marijuana is illegal under federal law, said Judge Hugh Brenneman Jr., patients can’t expect privacy.

The feds could also hit pot-tolerant cities. The law doesn’t allow municipal workers to be jailed in such prosecutions, but cities or counties could be heavily fined just for setting up zoning requirements for dispensaries.

There’s a huge downside to that, of course. Obama will only appear mean and small for having sickly grandmas arrested. And fining cities just enrages residents picking up the tab – the very people the president will need a year from now.

All of which leaves him fighting at partial speed. That, in turn, leaves the “zealots” Tyber mentions betting their money and freedom that even if the feds throw the book at some, it won’t be them.

Last week, the feds raided several growing operations in California and Oregon, including one in Mendocino County that appeared to be playing by the state rules. But it seems safe to assume that few of the hundreds of other growers in Mendocino County did not uproot their crops in response — just as the hundreds of dispensaries in California did not immediately close their doors after the feds’ ominous warning on October 7.

The industry seems to be practicing a form of civil disobedience. And it has tens of thousands of seriously sick people behind it, who will holler loudly if they’re forced back to the black market.

Indeed, there are some signs that Obama’s crackdown will be what the SF Weekly’s Chris Roberts calls a “Passive Aggressive” strategy. Rather than offend Americans with news footage of police raids, Obama has launched a war of attrition.

Landlords, worried the feds will steal their property, will tell dispensaries to move out. Banks won’t handle money for pot-themed businesses. Dispensaries will be taxed so heavily they won’t be to cover the payroll or pay the electric bill.

Yet it remains to be seen whether federal prosecutors, who undoubtedly have even more serious criminals with which to contend, are willing and able to carry out the threat. When Jack Gillund, Melinda Haag’s spokesman, was asked whether her office had the resources to go after every dispensary or grower who doesn’t comply with the 45-day deadline, he offered a simple reply: “No comment.”

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Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner in California’s Eastern District, says Wagner’s goal isn’t to shut down everything. He’s focusing on “large, professional, money-making operations – the commercial operations.”

Horwood also says that it’s wrong to call it “Obama’s crackdown.” She says the California U.S. Attorneys decided to take action on their own because the situation has grown out of control among recreational users. But she acknowledges that they received Obama’s blessing.

It’s classic political strategy: Send the underlings out to take the heat, while the bosses hide under their skirts.

Either way, the end result casts Obama as even more zealous than George W. Bush. Bush threatened owners of dispensary properties in 2007, but never followed up. Meanwhile, Colorado and other states have seen no similar crackdowns. Only time will tell whether Obama plans to destroy the entire medical marijuana industry, or merely smack California around for a bit.

“I’m willing to give the Obama Administration the benefit of the doubt,” says Blair Butterworth, a Democratic consultant in Seattle, where about 100 dispensaries operate. “In California, they may be sitting on uncontrollable drug sales. They need to slap some wrists.”

It’s easy to pick on California, a state known for its excesses. But “the last thing Obama needs right now is to go to war nationally with the medical marijuana community,” Butterworth says.

Leniency for marijuana users, medical or otherwise, continues to be a popular Democratic stance, he says. Butterworth is helping the campaign to put outright legalization on the Washington state ballot next year. He thinks it’s got a good chance.
Of course, a successful election could just tick off the feds even more.

A million patients can’t be wrong

An estimated one million people in California have obtained a doctor’s recommendation to grow and use marijuana legally. 

More than 150,000 medical marijuana patients have registered in Colorado as of July.

Tens of thousands of patients are registered in the other weed-friendly states.

If the feds shut down every dispensary in the country, all these people will still be able to legally possess marijuana – no matter where they bought it – under their state laws.

The only difference is they’ll be forced to go back to buying their weed from Mexican drug cartels, rather than Americans who provide jobs and pay taxes.

It’s akin to the feds saying that Anheuser-Busch can no longer sell beer; they’d prefer that people only buy from Al Capone.

Hey, wait — didn’t something like that happen?