Does Holder Know That Congressional Hearings Are Recorded?

The Marijuana Policy Project notes (PDF) another occasion on which Attorney General Eric Holder enunciated a position on medical marijuana that is contradicted by his department's June 29 memo to U.S. attorneys. During a May 10, 2010, hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Holder had the following exchange with Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.):

Polis: I certainly applauded and greet with warmth, representing one of the states that has a medical marijuana law and regulates the sale of marijuana, the [October 2009] memo describing the intent of the DEA and U.S. attorneys. I'd like you to describe the objective processes the DEA and the U.S. attorneys are using in order to make a determination about whether individuals are "in clear and unambiguous compliance with state law." How is that determined?

Holder: People get tired of hearing this, but it is true: It's done on a case-by-case basis. We look at the state laws, what the restrictions are, how the law is constructed, and then there are a number of factors in that memo that are our guides: Is marijuana being sold consistent with state law? Are firearms somehow associated with the sale? There are a variety of factors that are contained within the memo from the deputy attorney general that United States attorneys and assistant United States attorneys are supposed to apply, supposed to consider, when trying to make the determination about whether or not federal resources are going to be used to go after somebody who is dealing in marijuana.

Polis: I certainly was encouraged that the question of whether or not it's consistent with state law would be left to state enforcement actions....[I sent you a letter] with regard to several statements that were made by one of your agents in Colorado, Jeffrey Sweetin [the special agent in charge of the DEA's Denver office], along the lines of, as quoted in the paper: "The time is coming when we go into a dispensary, we find out what their profit is, we seize the building, and we arrest everybody. They're violating federal law. They're at risk of arrest and imprisonment." I would like to ask what steps you would take to make sure that the spirit of the enforcement mechanisms that you outlined to me...are not contradicted by the statements of [DEA] agents that...strike fear into legitimate businesses in the eyes of our states.

Holder: It's incumbent upon me as attorney general to make sure that what we have set out as policy is being followed by all of the components within the Department of Justice....

Polis: Do you agree that statements that could be reasonably taken as threatening to businesses that are legal in our state are, in fact, contrary to your stated policy?

Holder: Well, again, if the entity is, in fact, operating consistent with state law, and is not—does not have any of those factors involved that are contained in that deputy attorney general memo, and given, again, the limited resources that we have and our determination to focus on major traffickers, that would be inconsistent with...the policy as we have set it out.

By contrast, the new memo (PDF) says "commercial operations cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana" are not covered by the Obama administration's policy of prosecutorial restraint—only patients and caregivers (who do not have large enough quantities of marijuana to be worth federal attention in any case). How does the memo reconcile Holder's distinction between bona fide and fake dispensaries with the Justice Department's current position that every dispensary is fair game? By asserting that the two plainly contradictory positions are "entirely consistent."

Here's the video:

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    As Holder says: A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

  • ||

    Logical consistency is for little people who lie awake at night counting hobgoblins.

  • robc||

    Sounds like congress has an open and shut perjury case, if they wish to prosecute it.

  • robc||

    Much more so than, for example, Roger Clemens.

  • Jerry||

    Was he sworn in?

  • robc||

    No clue, but I wouldnt listen to a member of any adminstration without an oath first.

  • Appalachian Australian||

    Listening to members of any administration speak makes me start swearing oaths.

  • cynical||

    So, do you think we have enough grievances against the current administration/political estabishment to fill up a new Declaration of Independence? I was making a list, but I don't if it's enough.

    * Gunwalker
    * EPA regulating CO2 without authorization
    * The TSA -- particularly, compelling citizens to submit to harassment and demeaning and invasive searches in order to exercise the basic right of travel.
    * PPACA, in general
    * the individual mandate, specifically
    * the abuse of waivers, specificially
    * overuse of recess appointments
    * continuing to unconstitutionally spy on citizens in the name of national security
    * claiming the authority to assassinate American citizens without due process.
    * protection of past administration's war crimes.
    * continuing to prosecute administration's past wars
    * lawlessly and unconstitutionally initiating a new war
    * Less transparency
    * Punishing whistleblowers, abusing Manning
    * Assaulting persons for using medications legal in their states of residence.
    * Boeing/NLRB
    * Intervention into GM bankruptcy, overturning normal procedures to benefit the president's political allies
    * TARP, the bailouts, the stimulus (at least partially)

  • ||

    Looks like a list of indictments to me.

  • cynical||

    Should probably add "lese majeste" to that list.

  • Brendan Perez||

    Lots of hope and change in there.

  • ||

    Has there been a President ever who had less control over their cabinet than Obama? Holder is out protecting "his people" and selling guns to Mexico. Pistone is out grouping old ladies and children. Geitner is printing money like it is going out style and rewriting the market to market rules. The EPA is out trying to take over the economy one destroyed industry at a time. The White Queen at HHS is handing out Obamacare waivers to the highest bidder. Hillary is getting us into war in Libya. Gates is doing the same in Somalia and Yemen. I really don't think Obama has any control over any of it.

  • ||

    Well, this kind of allegation always happens. Conservatives used to say "This sort of thing wouldn't happen if Reagan were President" during Reagan's term.

    And of course, "if only the czar knew" is a famous phrase too.

  • ||

    I understand that. But Obama seems so disengaged. The guy plays golf all of the time. And he has no experience doing much of anything. Geitner may be a criminal but he was presidnet of the New York Fed. Hillary did God knows what in the White House for 8 years and has a former President to go to for advice. Sibelius was a governor. Pistole is a lifetime FBI guy. Holder is a long time crooked attorney. Gates was Sec Def before Obama got there. Obama is a pathetic light weight compared to all of them. I think they are just running over him and doing whatever the hell they want to do. That doesn't excuse Obama. But I am begining to think there is no leadership or control coming from in the White House.

  • Number 2 ||

    John, your question assumes that these people are not doing what Obama wanted them to do in the first place, while letting them take the heat for it.

  • Appalachian Australian||

    Based on Obama's speeches and behaviour, he seems to honestly believe all of our problems will go away if there are "green jobs", factory jobs, and if he seeks UN approval before any international engagement.

    Central planners really do believe their own press.

  • Paul||

    This is one rare case where I wouldn't indict Obama so much as indict our system... and unfortunatly that puts the American people in line for a certain amount of responsibility.

    Interest groups are made of people and citizens, and there are so many interest groups which have lobbied, cajoled, begged, threatened, sued and generally agitated for regulatory agencies to oversee thus and so independently of the political process.

    I've even been in arguments with libertarians about the utlitiarian desire for a regulatory agencies which deal with complex areas of science or policy that your average congressperson couldn't understand.

    I have proposed many times (and it never seems to get any traction or interest from other libertarians) that one meaningful reform we could make to our system which could arguably satisfy people on both sides of the debate is this:

    Turn all regulatory agencies into advisory agencies. This leaves them with the expertise and regulation-writing responsibility, but the regulation enacting power still lies with our direct representatives.

    The regulatory agencies could create what would be called "regulatory packages" which would be the exact same regulations they would have enacted, but give them to Congress for an up or down vote.

    This puts democracy directly back into the hands of our elected representatives. And we can ultimatly hold them directly responsible for the real-world, life-changing effects on our lives.

  • Paul||

    Or shorter Paul: This is the inevitability of a regulation- not law- driven system.

  • Gabby Johnson||

    Hey! The sheriff's a nig...
    [Clock bell chimes]

  • Eric Holder||

    Why should I care about being consistent? It's not like I'm going to get fired or anything.

  • ||

    After all, it's not like Holder has a real job or anything.

    -jcr

  • Number 2 ||

    It's likely a moot point now, but what does firearms being somehow associated with the sale have to do with compliance with state medical marijuana laws? I have studied NJ's law carefully. Nowhere does it say that people with firearms are excluded from the program.

  • Appalachian Australian||

    Federal law comes into play if firearms are involved with marijuana. It's kind of a cop-out for Eric Holder to talk about state law at all; he's charged with upholding federal law, and state laws should be irrelevant to him. Why does it make sense for the federal government to get involved if a state law is violated in another non-medical-marijuana state?

    Us libertarians are so completely heartless. We want to do evil things like let terminally ill cancer patients get relief for their pain.

  • Libertarian pot smoker||

    ---"We want to do evil things like let terminally ill cancer patients get relief for their pain"---

    I just want to get high. No bullshit, real comment.

  • Paul||

    I just want to get high. No bullshit, real comment.

    Which is cool. Which is why I cringe every time someone wants to call it "medicine".

  • Paul||

    It's likely a moot point now, but what does firearms being somehow associated with the sale have to do with compliance with state medical marijuana laws

    I was wondering the exact same thing.

  • db||

    For one, when you fill out a form 4473 (the ATF form required when purchasing a firearm) you have to answer a question that asks if you are addicted to, or an unlawful user of, any controlled substances.

  • db||

    I believe it mentions marijuana specifically. Yep:

    "e. Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?"

    http://www.atf.gov/forms/download/atf-f-4473-1.pdf

  • georg felis||

    The Holder position on, shall we say Herbal production and consumption seems to be paraphrased as "The People who are legally able to purchase and use it shall not be bothered. But we'll arrest anybody who grows it."

    Sounds an inverted bit from Captain Esteban in Zorro, the Gay Blade : "The woman is allowed to speak! But arrest anyone who listens"

  • Meiczyslaw||

    You want scary? That movie seems prophetic at this moment.

    Like Atlas Shrugged on crack.

  • The Gobbler||

    PHOENIX - Weapons linked to a questionable government strategy are turning up in crimes in Valley neighborhoods.

    For months the ABC15 Investigators have been searching through police reports and official government documents. We’ve discovered assault weapons linked to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ controversial "Fast and Furious" case strategy have turned up at crime scenes in Glendale and Phoenix communities.

    http://www.abc15.com/dpp/news/.....ley-crimes

  • Spnge||

    holders a dick! oh no i am gonna get fired now, lol. but anyway. you do not have to go after the userrs, shut down the porduction, and the user state problem takes care of itself, in holders little world anyway. In reality the feds should gtfo of state buisnes and go back to defenededing its citizens and faciltitating trade. that is all it should do. no more, no less.

  • ||

    hh?

  • Robert||

    What I don't understand is why he doesn't just say, "Nya, nya, fooled you!" If I were one of them I'd gloat loudly at my ability to dis everybody.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Perhaps Holder really doesn't remember his previous promises, because his memory is impaired. What could have caused this?

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    Come now, once a person (or even a politician) has swallowed the claim that bombing Libya isn't "hostilities" there is nothing you can't sell them.

    The administration just figures they can tell congress whatever they want to now.

  • BigT||

    Take Carter's economics, Bush 2's warmongering, Clinton's prevarication and Nixon's chicanery and what do you get? Obama.

    Four more years. America deserves to suffer for its foolishness.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement