U.S.: Former Attorney General Eric Holder Says Reschedule Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Former Attorney General Eric Holder -- who once had the power to unilaterally begin the process of rescheduling marijuana, but didn't use it -- now says he agrees that cannabis should be reclassified under federal law.

"I certainly think it ought to be rescheduled," Holder said in a newly published interview with PBS. "You know, we treat marijuana in the same way that we treat heroin now, and that clearly is not appropriate."

“It’s nice to have Holder’s support for this sensible policy change, but it would have been a lot better if he’d exercised the power to get marijuana rescheduling done while he was still in office," Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, told Hemp News on Wednesday morning. "We know that Holder and President Obama are good friends, so I hope the former attorney general encourages his former boss and his successor Loretta Lynch to follow through during these final months of the administration and get the job done.

"There’s absolutely no reason marijuana should be in Schedule I, and it would be absurd to keep passing the buck to Congress when federal law clearly gives the administration the power to act," Holder said.

As Attorney General, Holder was repeatedly asked by cannabis activists to begin reviewing marijuana's Schedule I status, but failed to do so before leaving office last April, reports Angell at Marijuana.com. Successor Loretta Lynch has expressed opposition to legalizing marijuana, but has called the Obama Administration's approach of non-interference to letting states enact their own cannabis laws "effective."

Holder, while still Attorney General in September 2014, called rescheduling "something that I think we need to ask ourselves, and use science as the basis for making that determination."

Holder's new comments on scheduling came as part of a PBS Frontline special on heroin that debuted on Tuesday. The interview was conducted last September, but kept under wraps until now.

It's also time for the U.S. to think about decriminalizing marijuana, according to Holder. "I think that ought to be a part of the conversation," he said.

"You know, where do we want to be as a nation? Now, there’s certain drugs I just can’t see," Holder said. "It’s hard for me to imagine ever decriminalizing crack cocaine, drugs like that. But the whole question of should marijuana be decriminalized, I mean, that’s a conversation I think that we should engage in.”

Under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, the Attorney General is allowed to unilaterally begin the process that could lead to rescheduling by directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to review scientific evidence on its risks and effects. After receiving that analysis, the Attorney General could make a rescheduling determination.

Holder, while AG, repeatedly deflected questions about rescheduling marijuana, deferring to Congress. Rescheduling “is something that would be well informed by having Congressional hearings and Congressional action informed by a policy determination that I think the administration would ultimately be glad to share,” he said in February 2015.

In November 2014 Holder said, “I think the question of how these drugs get scheduled and how they are ultimately treated is something for Congress to work on.”

Moving cannabis out of Schedule I into Schedule II or III would make it easier to conduct scientific research on the plant, but it would also effectively hand over control of the marijuana industry to Big Pharma, by making them the only legal game in town. The captains of the profitable pharmaceutical industry have, for years, seen a lot of money flowing through Mom-and-Pop medical marijuana dispensaries, and they are more determined than ever to get their hands on that cash.

Photo of Eric Holder: PoliticusUSA