Drug War

Eric Holder Ducks Question About Reclassifying Marijuana

An administration that often complains it doesn't have enough power to act unilaterally can do so with marijuana but says it can't.

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Outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at the National Press Club this afternoon on the topic of criminal justice and sentencing reform, talking about some of the ways he believed he's helped the Department of Justice break away from an institutional culture that called for a heavy-handed approach to drug crimes and suggesting he would keep working on reform issues even after leaving government work.

Asked after his remarks about whether he would recommend to the White House that President Obama reschedule marijuana, Holder repeated the administration's deceptive assertion that the executive branch cannot reschedule marijuana on its own, saying Congress had to do it after a national conversation of sorts.

"There is I think a legitimate debate to be had on both sides of that question" of how marijuana ought to be scheduled, Holder said, and it should "take into account all the empirical evidence that we can garner to see if it is as serious a drug that would warrant Class I categorization."

As Jacob Sullum noted last month, President Obama has admitted marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, but even with no more elections ahead of him he appears unlikely to exercise his legal power to reclassify marijuana. Unlike legally dubious executive actions in other policy domains, reclassifying marijuana, apparently, can wait.

Holder's appearance at the National Press Club is still wrapping up. You can watch it live, or any part of it, below: