In his newly released book, Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana – Medical, Recreational and Scientific (Scribner) investigative author Martin A. Lee posits that the recent “Operation Fast and Furious” scandal was the prime motivation for the Obama administration’s crackdown on California medical marijuana dispensaries initiated by federal prosecutors in 2011 (book excerpt).


The controversy over Fast and Furious is so complex it demands its own article, but to summarize: From 2006 until 2011, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives conducted so-called “gun-walking” sting operations (in which firearms are sold to middlemen who are purchasing weapons for Mexican drug cartels, with the intent of locating top-level cartel leaders). Fast and Furious (named for the 2009 movie) was the largest gun-walking investigation, as the feds monitored the sales of over 2,000 firearms. 


However Fast and Furious subsequently blew up in the government’s face and became a media sensation after guns from the operation were reportedly used in heinous cartel crimes and the AK-47 shooting death of U.S Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in 2010.  Additionally, Furious had not resulted in the apprehension of a single targeted cartel leader as of 2011.


In Smoke Signals, Lee suggests U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder intentionally ordered the four federal prosecutors in California to shut down legal medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the state to eclipse GOP congressional and Justice Dept probes into the Fast and Furious fiasco.   


The “official story” is that the U.S. Attorneys launched the dispensary crackdown because of complaints from local law enforcement and political officials throughout California – but if Lee’s premise holds true, it would tear the accepted story to shreds.


Offering nothing in the way of quoted sources or documentation, Friday, October 7, 2011 is the key date for Lee’s speculative conspiracy theory; that was the day the four U.S. Attorneys in California held a widely covered press conference announcing the federal government would be shutting down medical pot dispensaries. It also happened to be the same date AG Holder sent a letter to Republican U.S. Representative (and Obama/Holder foe) Darrell Issa justifying his (Holder’s) role in Fast and Furious. The theory being that the marijuana crackdown would distract Rep Issa and the GOP into backing away from queries into Operation Fast and Furious. 


Lee first came to prominence after co-authoring the 1986 tome Acid Dreams, a well-researched and fascinating study of the role the CIA played in promoting and spreading the use of LSD among the nascent 1960s counterculture to study the effect of the hallucinogen as a mind-control agent in a social setting and by extension, to neutralize the anti-Vietnam War movement.  


While Lee’s Smoke Signals is not nearly as documented as Dreams, the Obama administration’s abrupt about-face regarding medical marijuana (after previously promising to honor states’ rights on the matter) has been as mystifying as it has been frustrating. So speculation on the subject is warranted and all theories should be shown the light of day.  And again, if Lee’s theories could be independently corroborated, it would confirm that the war on medical marijuana is nothing but a smokescreen. offers several detailed refutations of Lee’s theories in the blog post below.


*Editor's note:

Reporter Mark Miller points out that's assertion that local law enforcement hasn't been used in California's medical marijuana crackdown is untrue. The article states:


Also, never mind that the Justice Department's new war on marijuana has been conducted without – at least in the Bay Area – a single armed law enforcement officer.


However, during the Oaksterdam University raid in early April, federal agents were aided by the Oakland police department.
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