Holder Signals Support for Marijuana Reclassification Before Stepping Down

US Attorney General Eric Holder, currently the highest-ranking law enforcement official in the country, has announced that he will soon be retiring. This development comes just after Holder was interviewed by Yahoo’s Katie Couric, in which Holder disclosed that he believes the federal rescheduling of marijuana is a valid political issue and should be carefully considered.

As things stand now, cannabis is a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I substances are considered to have a “high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use” — a ruling that flies in the face of the 23 states that have legalized medical marijuana and seek to profit off the responsible regulation of this popular yet “illicit” substance.

Holder said:

“I think it’s certainly a question we need to ask ourselves, whether or not marijuana is as serious of a drug as heroin. Especially given what we’ve seen recently with regard to heroin — the progression of people from 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 of marijuana is. Now it can be destructive if used in certain ways, but the question of whether or not they should be in the same category is something that we need to ask ourselves and use science as the basis for making that determination.”

While this is actually a progressive stance for the top law enforcement official in the nation, Holder’s little allowance fails to acknowledge the overwhelming scientific evidence that marijuana is indeed medically beneficial. Research indicates that cannabis can be used to combat cancer, epilepsy, depression, PTSD, and many other conditions.

Holder also fails to recognize mounting historical evidence that the War on Drugs originated in racist federal policies, and that its perpetuation offers enormous economic benefits to pharmaceutical companies and private prisons.

Meanwhile, legal marijuana markets in those states that have passed legalization legislation are being subjected to extremely high tax rates by the federal government. Dispensary owners around the nation are faced with effective tax rates that can range from 50 to 80%. Rescheduling marijuana as a Schedule III substance would help legitimize the industry, and would bring tax rates more closely in line with similar industries.

Couric asked Holder what he thought about marijuana’s status at the federal level. “I think we’ve taken a look at the experiments that are going on in Colorado and Washington, and we’re going to see what happens there, and that’ll help inform us as to what we want to do on the federal level,” Holder explained. In other words, the jury is still out on federal decriminalization. Holder has previously disclosed, however, that the Obama administration would be willing to work with Congress on the rescheduling of marijuana, if that was something they’d be interested in doing.

Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, expressed excitement over the Attorney General’s change of heart.

“It’s refreshing to hear these remarks from the attorney general, especially since the science couldn’t be any clearer that marijuana doesn’t meet the criteria for being classified as a Schedule I substance. Numerous studies confirm marijuana’s medical value, and if the administration is serious about taking an objective look at this issue, rescheduling is very achievable by the time this president leaves office. They can do this administratively without any further action from Congress.”

Could Obama reschedule marijuana via executive order? He has stated that such an action would need to come from Congress, but with paralyzing partisan gridlock preventing any kind of meaningful legislation, executive action may be the only available option to fix the nation’s broken drug policies.

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/25/eric-holder-marijuana-rescheduling_n_5884128.html

Photo Credit: North Charleston

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