Drug Policy

Eric Holder Nips Marijuana in the Bud and Invents a Time Cover Story


Barack Obama's selection of Eric Holder as his attorney general is a very discouraging sign for anyone who hoped the new administration would de-escalate the war on drugs. As Dave Weigel noted earlier today, Holder pushed for stiffer marijuana penalties when he was the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, and the details are strikingly at odds not only with Obama's signals regarding marijuana but with his opposition to long sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. According to a December 1996 report in The Washington Times excerpted at TalkLeft, Holder wanted "minimum sentences of 18 months for first-time convicted drug dealers, 36 months for the second time and 72 months for every conviction thereafter." He also wanted to "make the penalty for distribution and possession with intent to distribute marijuana a felony, punishable with up to a five-year sentence." The D.C. Council made the latter Holder-endorsed change in 2000. Holder thought New York City's irrational, unjust crackdown on pot smokers was a fine idea and worth emulating, saying "we have too long taken the view that what we would term to be minor crimes are not important." His rhetoric on the seriousness of marijuana offenses was indistinguishable from that of the most zealous Republican drug warrior:

The truth of the matter is that marijuana is a significant problem for the city….Crack cocaine still drives most of the violence in this city, but marijuana violence is increasing. We need to nip it in the bud.

Four years later, when he was the deputy attorney general, Holder talked up the Clinton administration's alleged drug war victories during a weekly briefing (also quoted by TalkLeft):

We've made some major inroads in the drug problem but we don't have—I mean, if you think back there was a Time magazine article I remember on—a cover story on cocaine and—this was sometime back in the late '80s—and at that point, I remember reading the article and the article seemed to indicate that, you know, it was [a] drug being used by the middle class and that there were not many consequences for that use. We obviously know that that is not true now….

Certainly, I think, as opposed to the late '80s and the early '90s, I think consumption is down.

Holder's memory was a little fuzzy. According to the Monitoring the Future Study (which I'm using because it provides comparable data throughout the period), illegal drug use among teenagers was substantially higher in 2000 than in the early 1990s. In 2000 nearly 25 percent of high school seniors reported past-month use of an illegal drug, compared to 16.4 percent in 1991. It's hard to believe Holder was not aware of this trend, since it was the focus of Republican claims that the Clinton administration was soft on drugs.

And what Time cover story did Holder have in mind? Presumably it was this one, which appeared in July 1981, not "the late 1980s":


Contrary to Holder's gloss, the story is replete with warnings about cocaine's hazards. The subhead reads: "The 'all-American drug' has hit like a blizzard, with casualties rising." Here is the last sentence of the nut graph: "Largely unchecked by law enforcement, a veritable blizzard of the white powder is blowing through the American middle class, and it is causing significant social and economic shifts no less than a disturbing drug problem."

Holder's confusion about the date when this allegedly cocaine-friendly story appeared is significant because it erroneously places the article in the middle of the first Bush administration, with the implication that Clinton has been more serious about fighting the war on drugs (a laughable notion to anyone who remembers George H.W. Bush's apocalytpic baggie-of-crack speech or the zealousness of his drug czar, William Bennett). But the article actually appeared less than six months into the Reagan administration, when the pharmacological naivité Holder claims it displayed could be seen as residue from the Carter era, soon to be washed away by Reagan's enthusiastic prosecution of the drug war. In short, Holder's false anecdote about the Time cover story, along with his bogus claim about drug use trends, suggests he epitomizes the Clinton administration's desperation to prove that a Democrat who used to smoke pot can too be tough on drugs—precisely the motivation that could make Obama just as bad on drug policy as the current administration, if not worse.

NEXT: Breaking (From Yesterday!): Reason Foundation's Proactive No Vote on Eric Holder as Attorney General

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.

  1. Hey Roger, give me that couplet again…

  2. Drugs, torture, immigration, that’s all 2nd term stuff, sorry guys…

  3. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

  4. Daschle for Sec of HHS. I guess we know who will be implementing socialized medicine.

    Old Boy Network alive and strong. Obama would make a good NHL GM with his hiring practices.

    What MDR said.

  5. What a black guy who admits to a cocaine habbit when he was young is paranoid about being seen as soft on drugs? I can’t beleive it.

  6. Ronald Reagan, it will be remembered, was the one who kicked the drug war up a notch to nuclear levels. People forget that when they cannonize him.

  7. “Ronald Reagan, it will be remembered, was the one who kicked the drug war up a notch to nuclear levels. People forget that when they cannonize him.”

    And Richard Nixon has probably the best and most enlightened drug policy of recent presidents. Of course the worst excesses of the drug war were started in New York by Rockafeller who was, although a Republican, a great liberal. The drug war produces very strange bedfellows.

  8. “And Richard Nixon has probably the best and most enlightened drug policy of recent presidents.”

    Yeah I agree the early or middle 70s was probably the closest we came to de-criminalizing drugs. But once crime went up, drugs were too easy of a scapegoat for politicians to used, so they got demonized.

  9. Cronyism outranks “Change”.

  10. And Richard Nixon has probably the best and most enlightened drug policy of recent presidents.

    Except for coining the term “War on Drugs” and starting the DEA.

  11. The Obama FAIL is getting off to a faster than expected start.

  12. “Except for coining the term “War on Drugs” and starting the DEA.”

    He talked a good game, but his administration was the only time in history where the majority of funding went to treatment rather than law enforcement.

  13. Marijuana violence?

    Won’t somebody think of the Cheetos?!?

  14. “Derrick | November 19, 2008, 2:29pm | #
    Marijuana violence?”

    I found the very thought of that phrase hilarious, too.

  15. And Richard Nixon has probably the best and most enlightened drug policy of recent presidents.

    Except for coining the term “War on Drugs” and starting the DEA.

    C’mon, he made Elvis an honorary DEA agent!

  16. Just say no, goddam it!
    I may be frail, but I’m wirey.
    Don’t make me come up there!

  17. Ummm….Nixon was an absolute neanderthal on drug policy.

    He was the one who suppressed the Shafer Commission Report. Nipped reform in the bud, so to speak.

    There were rumblings about legalization during the Carter admin but they didn’t get very ;oud or go very far. They were the nearest we came.

  18. ….Crack cocaine still drives most of the violence in this city, but marijuana violence is increasing. We need to nip it in the bud. [emphasis added]

    Great. Barney Fife with actual authority.

  19. Marijuana violence?

    Nobody this out of touch should be let anywhere near power.

  20. Marijuana violence?

    Nobody this out of touch should be let anywhere near power.

    If he were required able to tell the truth he would be referring to prohibition violence. Alas, he is only (purportedly) going to be the chief law enforcement officer in the nation. Truthfulness is not a required or desired attribute for holders of that position.

  21. Eric Holder Nips Marijuana in the Bud

    Well, but … don’t we all …

  22. Never tried coke and never plan on it…

    That said that cover sure look’s appetizing.

    In fact from the cover I can’t find anything negative in regards to drug use…it looks sort of positive to me.

    just saying.

  23. Ok, let’s check the scoreboard. Is there anyone Obama has picked yet who isn’t a flaming asshole?


  24. Ok, let’s check the scoreboard. Is there anyone Obama has picked yet who isn’t a flaming asshole?

    Michelle seems nice.

  25. Michelle seems nice.

    Don’t know. I guess if Barry has tapped her in the ass it might be inflamed. Does that count?

  26. Man, I am so bummed! I thought the Obamessiah got it, man! I thought he understood us. You know, like he said: “pot had helped, and booze, maybe a little blow when you could afford it.”

    And now he’s gonna, like, enforce all these laws? Duuuuuude! Doesn’t he like, know, that guy Aslinger was totally in the pocket of William R. Hearst, who totally didn’t want hemp plants to be used for newsprint? Cuz he like owned all the redwoods? Or was that DuPont? Shit man, I need some chee-tos.

  27. fuck. this.

    i was so hopeful that something would really happen with the drug war on the federal level under obama.

    not cool

  28. no one should have been fooled into thinking Obama would do anything but continue the status quo in the war on drugs

  29. Did any of you Reason Libertarians for Obama really expect anything else? I voted for McCain and I did not expect that to change. No major candidate will push for a change to the “drug war” — the best that can be hoped for is some warlike language but a push quietly to move to treatment and a reduction in harm (as opposed to out and out war).

  30. i was so hopeful that something would really happen with the drug war on the federal level under obama.

    not cool

    Did you not read my comment? Second term. Just wait it out.

    And I take back what I say about torture.

  31. Mark —

    Um, no. The last five presidents to have a second term (Bush II, Clinton, Reagan, Nixon, and LBJ) have all seen unmititgated disasters in their last four(ish, for Dick) years. If you skip over Ike, Truman’s last four sucked. Hell, even FDR’s second four sucked (really, 1937-1941 — you wanna be president then?) compared to the first four. Cal’s might have been better, but Wilson’s last four were certainly for shit.

    If you’re waiting on The Chosen one to do anything, he won’t. And he especially won’t if he’s in from 2013-2017.


  32. as a smoker who voted for obama and was naive to think he was gunna change things, this makes me want to cry

  33. There was a positive cocaine story in one of the newsmags around 1982, about how coke didn’t have any negative side effects and everybody seemed to be enjoying it, so what was the harm? Of course, it’s absurd to think that an article would have been written like that in the late 1980s, after the crack epidemic had started, so his timing is off.

  34. RE: Opposition to the Appointment of Mr. Eric Holder as Attorney General of the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) for His Past Collusion with the Judicial Branch in violation of Separation of Power and the Rights of Citizens.


    As an old Progressive Republican who after Name and Watergate worked as an appointee in both the Carter and Reagan Administrations-before the era after 1983 of divisive politics-I have been a strong supporter of President-elect Obama. However, I oppose the appointment of Mr. Eric Holder for two main reasons:

    First, Mr. Eric Holder as part of DOJ has a record which subscribes to the collusion of DOJ with the Judicial Branch in violation of the rights of citizens, and the mandate of separation of power.

    During the past 32 years that I have conducted federal civil rights litigation on behalf of resident and nonresident Hispanics1-Mr. Eric Holder was in DOJ and as a Beltway attorney worked with the Judicial Branch to make the government less accountable. Thus, if he is appointed and gets Senate approval, the policy of DOJ will be to permit less and less right and ability of citizens to control abuse of government and its employees. The evidence confirms during the past 32 years that Courts, DOJ and the Bar have made it almost impossible to make the government accountable by use of both Civil Rights and Watergate legislation. Query–Who can now afford to sue the government for malfeasance, even if one could find a lawyer willing and able to do so? This is no accident. Also, the Bush Administration’s disregard for the Rule of Law was no anomaly, but in fact consistent with past DOJ policies under Mr. Eric Holder.

    To understand the magnitude of the problem that the citizens are confronted with by DOJ’s policy of the violation of separation of power by collusion with the Courts,2 I suggest for your reading, The Fraternity: Lawyers and Judges in Collusion, by John Fitzgerald Molloy. St. Paul, Minn.: Paragon House,* and a recent article, “How to Save the Courts” by Justice Sandra Day O’Conner, Parade Magazine, February 24, 2008.

    Second, Mr. Eric Hoder is a defendant in a civil RICO action for violation of 18 U.S.C. ?? 241, 242, 1204, and 1513.

    The evidence confirms that in his capacity as a Beltway attorney and lobbyist he has been the linchpin in a criminal conspiracy by government employees to deprive my Son of his civil rights as a U.S. citizen, obstruct my rights as a parent, and injure, stigmatize, and deprive me of my right as an independent civil litigation attorney in retaliation for my for petitioning Congress, litigating to enforce my federal statutory rights as a parent to compel DOJ to comply with their duty under the Hague Convention on Missing and Abducted Children and Virginia’s Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act VA Code ? 20-124.1 et seq., [See http://home.earthlink.net/~isidoror%5D, and for my past 30-year federal civil litigation against the unauthorized polices and practices of DOJ and the Federal Courts in violation of resident and nonresident Hispanics.

    In furtherance of the conspiracy Mr. Eric Holder did file a fraudulent bar complaint with the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board (“VSBDB”), complaining of my litigating to enforce federal rights. However, his actions were in violation of Federal criminal law. Also, it uncovered evidence that the Supreme Court of Virginia usurped the mandate of separation of power and the authority granted only to the General Assembly under the Constitution of Virginia to crate courts-of-record. Thus, the evidence is that the VSBDB is without judicial authority or jurisdiction to revoke any attorneys license, and its order as to me is void as issued by a kangaroo court.3 [see Petition for Impeachment of members of Supreme Court of Virginia et al., dated June 2007, http://www.petitiononline.com/RDL/petition.html, and see also http://best-lawyer.tistory.com/entry/Isidoro-Rodriguez-Civil-Rights-LawyerFAMILY-LAW%5D.

    However, because of the far reaching political implications of holding Mr. Eric Holder et al. Accountable for their criminal acts, the Federal Courts since 2007 have “stonewalled” by denying demands for a RICO jury trial, refused to comply with the Void Order Doctrine, denied access to an impartial court to compel DOJ protect me as a victim pursuant to the mandate of 18 U.S.C. ? 3771(a), and denied me of the right to sue for damages under RICO for malfeasance based on holding absolute Judicial and Executive immunity from tortious and criminal liability and lack of venue in D.C. to challenge the criminal acts initiated there by Mr. Eric Holder, Isidoro Rodriguez, Esq. v. Editor in Chief, Legal Times, et al., Petition for Writ of Certiorari, US S Ct. Docket No. 08-411, filed on September 28, 2008. See In re Isidoro Rodriguez, Petition for Writ of Mandamus, US S Ct. Docket No. 08-339, September 15, 2008, to compel the federal courts to comply with the 18 U.S.C. ? 3771; and Isidoro Rodriguez v. Hon. Leroy Rountree Hassell, Sr. Chief Justice , Supreme Court of Virginia, et al., Petition for Writ of Certiorari, US S Ct. Docket No. 08-574, field October 30, 2008.

    Consequently, to prevent a blot the fledgling Obama/Biden Administration I oppose any hasty appointment Mr. Eric Holder before requiring an investigation of the evidence of malfeasance and my allegations.

    At this critical time when the to restore integrity and public confidence in DOJ., we as citizens to protect our rights under this Republic must comply the complying with the word proclaimed on the Robert F. Kennedy Justice Department Building in, “No Free Government Can Survive That Is Not Based on The Supremacy of Law. Where Law ends, Tyranny Begins, Law Alone Can Give Us Freedom”

    Isidoro Rodriguez, Esq.
    Law Offices of Isidoro Rodriguez
    Mobil: 703.470.1457 Email: isidoror@earthlink.net
    Web: http://www.4jobs.com/1114836
    Web: http://justiciaportodo.webs.com

    1After I argued and won a Federal Tort Claim Act action, Martinez v. Lamagno and DEA, 515 U.S. 417 (1995), the Legal Times confirmed that I was the only know active U.S. license federal litigation sole practitioner residing outside of the U.S. and litigating in Federal Courts on behalf of resident and nonresident Hispanics, i.e. I have: (i) represented 360 nonresident Hispanic women in Class action Breast Implant Cases; (ii) litigated to stop the seizing of all nonresident Hispanic surnamed accounts in the United States as violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Bank Secrecy Act, and the Right to Financial Privacy Act, Lopez v. First Union, 129 F3.rd. 1186 (11th Cir. 1997); and, (iii) litigated against the issuance of the Constitutional prohibited bill of attainders against nonresident Hispanics.

    2In a review of The Fraternity, Dennis DeConcini, U.S. Senator (Ret), stated regarded the violation of separation of power by the Judicial Branch that”…it is very clear…that the Courts in our judicial system have, in fact, become the lawmakers, when it is very clear…that our Constitution delegated that responsibility to the Congress of the United States and the State Legislatures….treads on almost sacred ground when he gives his readers the real insight into how the legal profession has truly changed from being one of the premier professions in our society to a business where the number one objective or bottom line is financial profit…” (Emphasis added).

    3″Kangaroo court.” . . . 2. A. Court or tribunal characterized by unauthorized or irregular procedures, . . . . 3. A sham legal proceeding. . . .'” Bryan A. Garner, Black’s Law Dictionary, at page 382 (8th ed., 1999). Emphasis added.

  35. if Obama and this Holder guy continue the raids on medical marijuana patients — something that should not be happening in a civilized society — I’ll work just as hard to remove Obama from office in 4, as i did to help him get elected…

    it’s a little premature, but i’m starting to get sick…

  36. marijuana violence? where’s the evidence? I hear reputable sources discuss “marijuana violence”, but there’s no empirical data.

    sure, gangsters smoke pot: they use it to mellow out the effects of all the blow, meth, crack and alcohol.

    correllation is not causation

  37. The drug gangs recently hung a headless corpse from a highway overpass. Maybe it wasn’t marijuana, maybe it was.
    What libertarians never get is that rampant drug use, and the addled minds that inevitably follow, is the reason people like Sen. Obama can get elected. It is the reason the major media is what it is: addle pated. It is the reason squalor comes to inner-cities.
    My personal opinion is that drug dealers should be leaned over a floor drain and shot in the head. Then we start on the demand side.

  38. Hey Isthedoor’o… I could have saved you all the trouble of writing all that crap you just wrote by saying that Holder is black, and he won’t save your undoc constituents… mainly due to the fact that Holder is black; ergo, he won’t help Latinos.

    (Hint Isthedoor’o: Black and Latino are in competition for perishable wealth.) Once the white is gone (and for all practical political purposes they are) black becomes your new enemy.

    Oops. Here’s something else your law degree would never confer; you can’t win. Islam is coming. Once Latinos thing they’ve broken free of the white oppression… ta da! They’ll be cleaning toilets for their new Islamic masters.

    Sorry kid… I’m not incorrect.

  39. Robert Lee–
    Good thing you picked the name of another American traitor to call yourself, so we know what you are right off the bat. Whipping up fear from such a non-existent threat as Islamic terrorism is treasonous, not only because that fear is the only way said enemies can actually hurt us (the Iraq War has done far more damage to this nation than 9/11 ever did or could have) but because you are talking shit about the most powerful country in the history of the world. We beat the Nazis, we’re not going to fail where the Dark Age French didn’t and go down to a bunch of virgins dry-humping each other out in the desert.

    As far as your race baiting is concerned, no racial group, including blacks, came out more strongly for Obama relative to Kerry than Hispanics. But your little factiod would have been really mindblowing five months ago, that’s for sure.

  40. Change what change Obama i voted for you cause i thought youd fix this shit you faggot

  41. Nixon was good for harm reduction of herion i.e. introducing methadone clinics.

    he was a dick when it came to marijuana.

    as has everyone in office. save the fiscally irresponsible liberal douches who make you question your own beliefs.

    next time, vote outside of the 2 party system.

  42. Mr. President-Elect: This means war.

  43. Ladies and Gentlemen:

    When Mr. “Change” Obama selected the person responsible for the Drug Czar (and reportedly the first to coin the term)and the despicable RAVE act to be his VP what exactly did you expect?

    This is turning out to be one of the biggest bait and switch scams in recent history.

    Still, the people deserve what they get.

    If you voted for a ticket that included the creator of the drug czar i hope you enjoy whats coming

    change– lol

  44. wow – what a bunch of wawahs. you should have known what you were getting into – all you dumbasses who voted for him in the first place. He’s a frigging politician – ergo LIAR! Wholly crap, when are you going to smarten up? not until we get rid of all the “incumbents” and make the “Leaders” of our country realize that the lies are no good, we know the deal now. 2 years, or 4 years and your gone! thats the only way to get the fuckers honest. they don’t have time to become entrenched with big business and the cronyism crap that goes on there now. We need to stand up as a country and vote for no fucking one!! When this country first started, they worked for free and then went home to their regular jobs and thats the way it should be now. I’m tired of paying them for nothing!!! STAND UP AMERICA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  45. Actually….I do remember a Time (maybe it was Newsweek?) cover story on Cocaine addiction, maybe around 1983 or so….

  46. There you have it folks – another politician happy to re-write facts to serve his own ambitions. A previous poster is dead on – drugs are an incredible scape goat. What an easy way to tap into the fear of every middle and upper-class parent.

    It’s shocking that marijuana is still an effective target. Rhetoric is so divorced from the facts – it’s like Reefer Madness all over again.

    A friend of mine is a cop in a fair sized county – he told me that last year there were 11,000 incidents of violence in which alcohol was involved an ONE (yes, one) case of marijuana related violence … the kicker: the guy was drunk too.

  47. With many new announcement about the wizard of oz movies in the news, you might want to consider starting to obtain Wizard of Oz book series either as collectible or investment at RareOzBooks.com.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.