Marijuana decision from feds unlikely in near future due to reporter spying, Tea Party scandals

During a conference call shortly after the November 2012 passage of Amendment 64, Governor John Hickenlooper and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers encouraged U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to make announcing the federal government's response to the bill a priority. Then, in March, Holder said the feds' decision would be coming soon. Yet at May's midpoint, "soon" still isn't here -- and given the assorted scandals with which Holder's Justice Department is currently dealing, it's very unlikely to arrive in the near future.

Atop Holder's agenda at present is the fallout from an FBI investigation into a leak to the Associated Press, reportedly about a CIA agent who was also thought to be a possible suicide bomber. As part of the inquiry, the Department of Justice authorized obtaining phone records for twenty AP-related phone lines -- the sort of intrusion into the press' activities that's prompted critics such as MSNBC's Rachel Maddow to reference Nixon-era snooping.

According to Holder, he'd recused himself from the investigation some time earlier, establishing the sort of distance that could help him survive what looks to be the sort of public-relations catastrophe that will only quiet down after numerous heads roll. But that hasn't stopped him from being a target of criticism, not only from lawmakers who demanded his presence on Capitol Hill today, but also by media organizations aghast at the feds' actions.

Witness a letter from the Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press, which blasts the Justice Department for its actions. It's signed by more than fifty media organizations and addressed to Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole, who was put in charge of the leak investigation after Holder's recusal.

By a coincidence, Cole also happens to be the likeliest person other than the AG to offer an opinion about marijuana. Note that his name is on the so-called Cole memo, released in 2011, which was supposed to clarify the feds' approach to medical marijuana.

Holder also has a role in the other major controversy currently gripping Washington -- news that the Internal Revenue Service had directed extra scrutiny on Tea Party groups applying for nonprofit status in what critics see as a very partisan approach by a supposedly nonpartisan agency. The attorney general has announced that he's authorized an investigation by, you guessed it, the FBI into the IRS's activities.

These are not the types of matters that will blow over quickly. Rather, they're likely to drag on for months -- and should Holder take a break from them too soon in order to offer his views about Amendment 64, he risks being pilloried for focusing on a matter that many observers outside Colorado will likely see as trivial in comparison.

These circumstances mean Coloradans with an interest in A64 and marijuana policy must continue to speculate about federal action based on dubious evidence such as indirect quotes. Take, for instance, President Barack Obama's recent comments in Mexico about his opposition to legalizing drugs.

Clearly, "soon" still seems a long way off.

Look below to see CNN footage of Holder talking about the AP story and the letter from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Media coalition letter to Attorney General Eric Holder

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Barack Obama says no to legalizing drugs -- but what's that mean for Colorado?"

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