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Author Claims California Pot Crackdown Aimed To Distract From 'Fast And Furious'

HEALDSBURG (CBS SF) - A Bay Area's author's new book claims that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder authorized raids against California pot dispensaries last year to create a distraction from the failed "Fast and Furious" gun sting operation.

Healdsburg author Martin A. Lee writes in "Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana – Medical, Recreational and Scientific," that Holder was under increasing pressure to explain the"Fast and Furious" program and faced increasing calls for a special prosecutor to look into the possibility that Holder perjured himself during congressional testimony on the issue. Excerpts of the book were made available online at

Fast and Furious is the name the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms assigned to a group of Phoenix, Arizona-area gun trafficking cases allowing suspects to "walk" off with guns so that they could later be tracked.

The program involved more than 2,000 weapons, including hundreds of AK-47 type semi-automatic rifles and .50 caliber rifles. According to sources who worked directly on the case, the vast majority of guns were not tracked and Mexico's government was not fully informed of the case.

After initial denials, the Justice Department acknowledged the gunwalking had, indeed, gone on but that Holder knew nothing of it at the time.

Lee claims in his book that, on the same October day that Holder defended his role in the Fast and Furious program in a letter to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., "Four federal prosecutors in California held a hastily organized press conference in which they threw down the gauntlet and announced the start of a far-ranging crackdown that would nearly decimate the Golden State's medical marijuana industry."

He continued, "Team Obama's decision to crack down on the medical marijuana industry wasn't motivated by public health concerns. The Justice Department green-lit a scorched earth campaign against medicinal cannabis in order to placate law enforcement and control the damage from the Fast and Furious scandal by deflecting attention to other matters."

Lee is currently a political blogger for the Healdsburg Patch and the co-founder of FAIR, a national media watch group. He also reports on cannabis science and therapeutics and his book, Acid Dreams, is an acclaimed social history of LSD.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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