Obama administration floats trial balloon in New York Times (Updated)

There’s nothing this administration hates worse than leakers… except when it’s doing the leaking intentionally to use the media.

There’s no better tool for official leaks than the New York Times, which has a policy against using unnamed government sources — a policy that it ignores constantly.

Administration Weighs Legal Action Against States That Legalized Marijuana Use

WASHINGTON — Senior White House and Justice Department officials are considering plans for legal action against Colorado and Washington that could undermine voter-approved initiatives to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in those states, according to several people familiar with the deliberations.

Even as marijuana legalization supporters are celebrating their victories in the two states, the Obama administration has been holding high-level meetings since the election to debate the response of federal law enforcement agencies to the decriminalization efforts.


Federal officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter. Several cautioned that the issue had raised complex legal and policy considerations — including enforcement priorities, litigation strategy and the impact of international antidrug treaties — that remain unresolved, and that no decision was imminent.

The Obama administration declined to comment on the deliberations, but pointed to a statement the Justice Department issued on Wednesday — the day before the initiative took effect in Washington — in the name of the United States attorney in Seattle, Jenny A. Durkan. She warned Washington residents that the drug remained illegal.

The article goes on to explore some potentially extreme options with no indication that these specific options are being considered.

This appears to be a blatant political trial balloon using the New York Times to see what kinds of reactions there are and what political fallout might come from action… or inaction.

[Thanks, Tom]

Update: I wrote to Charlie Savage for some clarification on the story. In reading it, I couldn’t positively connect the specific options listed to the sources. It was inferred that those came from the sources, but not linked (and with the third one actually attributed to someone else, that also made me cautious about assuming).

He wrote back:

@DrugWarRant Yes, this is something they are mulling. Also, saw your blog re tool for planted trial balloon – you are, forgive me, paranoid.

So apparently, the unnamed sources did specify at least those first two rather outrageous options.

And yes, I am paranoid. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, when considering either the history of this administration, the history of the drug war, or the history of the New York Times.

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