Federal Prosecutors’ Unchecked Power and Zeal Creates Prison Nation

This month, John Lester Gross III, a 48-year-old Californian, became another casualty in the federal government’s escalating war on marijuana. He plead gulity and was sentenced to 19-plus years for creating and running a dispensary in Sacramento and a nearby farm, where federal agents said they found 2,800 plants and 100 pounds of trimmed pot.

Like pot entrepreneurs in other states with non-federal laws allowing medical marijuana, Gross thought he was operating under state law, and most critically, after the federal Department of Justice told its prosecutors to back off marijuana cases early in President Obama’s first term. But California’s four U.S. attorneys decided that they did not like the industry’s rapid growth and began enforcing a gamut of federal laws to destroy it, especially taking aim at the large cultivators and retailers.

Prosecutors appointed by Obama, such as Andre Birotte, Jr., the first African-American to hold the post in the district where Los Angeles is located and a lawyer praised by the civil rights leaders, recently told a local public radio station that they were acting with prosecutorial discretion by not going after caregivers and patients, but targeting “drug dealers with storefronts.” U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag similarly touted her “measured approach” in seeking to seize the property of Berkeley’s biggest dispensary.

– Read the entire article at AlterNet.