Eric Holder Says It’s Time To Talk Marijuana Decriminalization

It is not unusual for Americans working in the criminal justice system to disagree with specific laws and regulation that they still have to enforce as part of their public service. This is most certainly true when it comes to the issue of marijuana criminalization that many law enforcement officials believe should be decriminalized even though they have to enforce the absurd laws. The former top law enforcement official in the nation, former Attorney General Eric Holder is one such official who said it is time to change the nation’s laws regarding the weed.

Holder’s main statement was to come out in support of, at least, reclassifying marijuana from a Schedule 1 substance to a much less restrictive category. Schedule 1 drugs are considered extremely dangerous and have no medical use whatsoever and include heroin among other natural substances that are like weed, not considered dangerous; except by an archaic classification system. There are several fairly comprehensive articles on why marijuana was ever considered a “dangerous drug” in the first place despite wild opposition and protests from medical professionals and scientists in America and around the world.

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.” That is a minor departure from what Holder said in 2014 when as the nation’s top lawman he was mandated to toe the legal line. He said regarding marijuana as drug as dangerous as heroin; “I think rescheduling the drug is something we need to ask ourselves, and use science as the basis for making that determination.” It is probably true that less than two years ago Holder knew that science had determined thirty years ago at least that marijuana was not dangerous and in fact had many scientifically-documented medically beneficial uses.

This is particularly true now that the United States government promotes medicinal marijuana as an effective treatment for myriad maladies, including cancer, on its official National Institutes of Health Cancer website, it is fairly apparent that science has spoken and it is high time Republicans start listening and acting accordingly. This is particularly true since the ingredients in marijuana have been known to kill cancer cells and offer relief for a multitude of horrific diseases for about three decades. Yes, Republicans will say they are not scientists, but even they are hard-pressed to dispute the empirical results documented by the medical field.

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Now, there is an oft-parroted claim that Holder repeated saying it is up to Congress to reclassify marijuana. However, as has been seldom reported, both the Executive branch and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)  have the ability to “unilaterally reschedule any and all controlled substances without any input or approval of Congress.” Actually, that point was implied by Holder’s successor, Loretta Lynch, during her confirmation hearing last year. Ms. Lynch  said

I can tell you that not only do I not support legalization of marijuana, it is not the position of the Department of Justice currently to support the legalization nor would it be the position should I become confirmed as attorney general.”

It really is a moot point whether Lynch supports legalization or not. The Attorney General’s job has nothing to do with supporting decriminalization or reclassification of marijuana; something Holder held fast to throughout his Justice Department tenure. However, as a private citizen, the former Attorney General now says it is time for federal lawmakers to at least consider decriminalizing marijuana altogether. He told PBS’ Frontline that,

I think that certainly that (decriminalization) ought to be a part of the conversation. You know, where do we want to be as a nation? Now, there’s certain drugs I just can’t see. 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.”

Look, even if big pharma succeeds in keeping a common weed illegal, there is no reason to keep it under Schedule I; particularly while seriously highly addictive, dangerous, and potent drugs such as cocaine, opium, morphine, and codeine are listed under the much less-restricted Schedule II classification. And speaking of the nasty pharmaceutical industry, the synthetic version of THC, known as dronabinol, is listed as a Schedule III substance regardless that THC is the ingredient in cannabis that is classified alongside heroin.

According to the chairman of the advocacy group Marijuana Majority, Tom Angell, it would have been nice if Holder had worked harder toward reforming marijuana laws when he was attorney general, but Angell misses the point that it was not within Holder’s job description or purview as Attorney General. Still, Angell remarked that,

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. 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.”

Angell needs to get a clue. As Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, like her predecessor Eric Holder, has no authority or input into declassifying, or decriminalizing marijuana; she is the nation’s top law enforcement official. However, President Obama, as the head of the Executive Branch does have authority to “get the job done” on either decriminalizing or reclassifying marijuana. And based on some favorable moves over the past year or so, there is every possibility that the President may, in fact, “get the job done” and put an end to the absurdity of having a beneficial medicine that grows wild classified with heroin. Eric Holder is right, it is time to decriminalize marijuana; if the pharmaceutical and prison industry will allow it.

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