Tough On Pot, Surprisingly Soft On Coke Dealers, Joseph Rossoniello

Bush's pick for a CA prosecutor post of hardliner Joseph Russoniello signals a possible crack down on the state's multi-billion dollar pot industry.

The man tapped by President Bush to be the top federal prosecutor for the San Francisco Bay Area was a hardline drug warrior during his tenure in the same post in the 1980s -- which could signal an escalation of the administration's crackdown on California's flourishing medical-marijuana clubs.

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) -- who butted heads with Russoniello in the late '80s while investigating allegations about the Nicaraguan Contras' cocaine trafficking in California -- is "looking into this nomination very closely," according to a Senate aide.

The appointment has many in California's medical-marijuana community wondering if Russoniello would intensify the crackdown on the state's cannabis clinics

"We don't need another pot warrior trying to run roughshod over California's medical-marijuana law," California NORML head Dale Gieringer wrote to supporters, calling the nomination "an ominous development."

There was one case, however, in Joseph Russoniello's first tenure as a federal prosecutor where he was unusually lenient to drug dealers. In the "Frogman" cocaine-smuggling case-the touchstone of the late Gary Webb's investigative book, Dark Alliance, involving a network of Nicaraguan dealers who were donating profits to the Contras, the Reagan-backed terrorists who were trying to overthrow the country's leftist government -- his office returned $36,000 that had been seized from one of the defendants as "drug money."

Read the full story HERE

By Steven Wishnia, AlterNet. Posted December 30, 2007.

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