Melinda Haag has turned out to be the most reactionary US attorney in Northern California in a long time. Her wrong-headed crackdown on medical cannabis; her complete disregard for the voters of California; and her decision to order a massive federal raid on Oaksterdam and the respected businesses and properties of Richard Lee in Oakland on Monday are totally out of bounds. Lee’s legitimate businesses are a model in Oakland: They pay their taxes, they operate cleanly and safely, and they’ve helped lead the sweeping revitalization of Oakland’s once-barren Uptown district. Indeed, Haag’s decision to target Lee was so uncalled for — it proves she’s not fit for office. President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder should replace her.
However, because of politics and the 2012 presidential campaign, the Obama administration will undoubtedly leave Haag in place — at least for now. And to a certain extent, that’s understandable. Firing a US attorney because of her war on medical pot would be a gift to Republicans in an important election year.
Haag, in fact, seems to understand the politics involved — and it may explain her brazen actions. She has to know that there’s little chance the White House will move against her. She may even be positioning herself for the possibility of a Mitt Romney White House, because at this point, her stance on medical pot is even more reactionary than that of her predecessor — Joseph Russoniello, a Bush administration appointee.
Lots of people, however, believe that Haag actually has Obama’s blessing and is doing his bidding. After all, the other three US attorneys in California are also participating in the federal crackdown (although none has the crossed the line as far as Haag did with Oaksterdam). The theory is that Obama believes the crackdown — and Haag’s “tough-on-crime” pot raids — will help him with moderates and independents this year in other states. We hope this theory isn’t true, although it should be noted that Obama has done nothing to contradict it.
In fact, the silence from national Democratic leaders has been deafening. California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, along with House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, have been overwhelmingly tight-lipped about the crackdown, even though it totally contradicts the will of California voters who have repeatedly endorsed the use and sale of medical cannabis. The absence of leadership among Democrats on this issue has been stunning.
Locally, it’s been mostly disappointing as well. Mayor Jean Quan, who considers herself a progressive, has yet to publicly condemn the crackdown on Oaksterdam. Ditto for most of Oakland’s other political leaders. The only ones to show courage this week were Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan and Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker.
In fact, Parker took a strong, admirable stand, particularly for a public official whose job is to uphold Oakland’s laws. "Fifteen years ago, the voters of California declared medical cannabis legal in this state. I call on the federal government to respect California's state and local laws that allow safe access to medical cannabis," she said in a statement. "I strongly oppose federal raids and prosecutions of Oakland businesses that are complying with state and local laws and regulations and paying their fair share of taxes."
Here’s hoping that Obama takes a courageous stand, too — and lives up to the past promises he made to not interfere with medical marijuana in states that had approved its sale and use. And that he replaces Haag no later than November 7 — the day after he wins reelection.