Eric Holder Says Marijuana 'Ought to Be Rescheduled'

The former attorney general says cannabis does not belong in the same category as heroin.



In a recently published Frontline interview, Eric Holder made his strongest statement yet in favor of reclassifying marijuana, a process he could have initiated when he was attorney general. Asked if marijuana should be decriminalized, Holder said:

I certainly think it ought to be rescheduled. You know, we treat marijuana in the same way that we treat heroin now, and that clearly is not appropriate. So at a minimum, I think Congress needs to do that. Then I think we need to look at what happens in Colorado and what happens in Washington. 

By putting the onus on Congress, Holder (like his former boss) obscures the fact that the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) authorizes the executive branch to reschedule drugs on its own. Although decriminalizing marijuana probably would require new legislation, the CSA allows the attorney general, after consulting with the Department of Health and Human Services, to move drugs from one schedule to another. He could, for example, move marijuana from Schedule I, which is supposedly reserved for drugs with a high potential for abuse and no medical applications, to Schedule III, which includes accepted medicines with a lower abuse potential. But neither Holder nor President Obama has ever shown any interest in pursuing that option, preferring to pretend it does not exist.

In saying marijuana "certainly…ought to be rescheduled" (albeit by Congress), Holder goes further than comments he made in September 2014, after announcing that he planned to leave the Justice Department. In an interview with Katie Couric of Yahoo News, Holder said:

I think it's certainly a question that we need to ask ourselves—whether or not marijuana is as serious a drug as is heroin, especially given what we've seen recently with regard to heroin, the progression of people using opioids to heroin use, the spread and the destruction that heroin has perpetrated all around our country, and to see, by contrast, what the impact is of marijuana use. Now, it can be destructive, you know, if used in certain ways. But the question of whether or not they should be in the same category is something that I think we need to ask ourselves, and use science as the basis for making that determination.

His stronger comments in the Frontline interview, which was conducted last September but did not air until Tuesday, presumably reflect a greater willingness to be candid now that he is no longer attorney general, as opposed to an evolution of his views.

[via Tom Angell at Marijuana.com]