Janet Reno, who died yesterday, will be remembered mainly for authorizing the incineration of David Koresh and his followers in Waco, Texas —80 people, many of them children. But let us not forget that Clinton’s Attorney General also tried to block implementation of Proposition 215, the medical marijuana law that California voters enacted in November, 1996.

The Administration’s response to the California vote was announced by Reno on December 30 at a widely covered press conference, televised live by CNN. Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, Health & Human Services director Donna Shalala, and Alan Leshner of the National Institute on Drug Abuse also said that they would ignore the message from more than five million US citizens, but it was Reno who issued the specific threat: the Justice Department would revoke the license of any California doctors who dared to approve marijuana use by patients.

Gen. McCaffrey made fun of a list purporting to show conditions for which Tod Mikuriya, MD, recommended marijuana as a treatment. McCaffrey deployed a scripted soundbite: “This is not medicine, this is a Cheech and Chong show.” The list had been culled from the internet by one of the many aides McCaffrey brought with him from the Pentagon to the National Office on Drug Control Policy. Read the details here.

Reno showed courage when she enforced the federal court order directing that a little boy named Elian Gonzales be returned to his dad in Cuba. His mother had drowned while fleeing Cuba with her boyfriend in a raft, and Elian’s Miami relatives tried to keep him in the Land of the Free. But Reno wouldn’t let the kid be exploited. 

Janet Reno died of complications from Parkinson’s disease, one of the conditions on the list that McCaffrey ridiculed.