Marijuana Legalization 2016: Former Attorney General Eric Holders Thinks Marijuana Should Be Rescheduled

Eric Holder, the former U.S. Attorney General, says it’s time to talk about rescheduling marijuana and move it to a less restrictive category. Current federal law considers cannabis a Schedule I drug, labeling it a dangerous substance with no medical use.

“You know, we treat marijuana in the same way that we treat heroin now, and that clearly is not appropriate,” Holder said. “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.”

Marijuana is currently a Schedule I drug, but Holder thinks that should be changed.
The former chief law enforcer seems to have the same opinion as many Americans who think marijuana should be rescheduled.

While the federal government deems it unlawful, some states like Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Over the years, several other states have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of pot.

Holder made the statement during an interview for the PBS show Frontline last year after the attorney general left office. The episode was released on Tuesday accompanying another documentary named Chasing Heroin about the current heroin crisis plaguing America.

This isn’t the first time Holder has expressed such an opinion. In 2014, he mentioned his support of rescheduling marijuana during an interview with Katie Couric.

While the former AG appears to disagree with marijuana’s current classification under federal law, he has remained cautious about changing it. Holder stated in 2014 that he would work with Congress on efforts to reschedule cannabis, but did not pursue the issue.

In a related Inquisitr report, marijuana legalization does have some support within Congress. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urging them to study the medical benefits of cannabis.

Holder’s replacement Attorney General Loretta Lynch has been mostly silent on the issue, but has said in the past that she was against marijuana legalization.

“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,” Lynch said during her 2015 confirmation hearing.

While the White House does have some influence on revising the classification of marijuana, it is unlikely the Obama administration will take any action on the issue during the last remaining months in office.

Law experts say the decision to change a drug’s schedule lies with the executive branch, or more specifically the attorney general. Advocacy group Marijuana Majority thinks Holder could have done more to reschedule cannabis while in office.

“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,” said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. “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 believes marijuana should not be a Schedule I drug and it doesn’t make any sense to wait for Congress to act when federal law leaves the decision up to the administration.

Marijuana is a schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.
Under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is a Schedule I drug, which means the plant has a high chance of addiction and no medical value. However, other highly potent drugs like cocaine, opium poppy, morphine, and codeine are in the less-restrictive Schedule II controlled substances category. Dronabinol, a synthetic version of the ingredient in weed that causes psychoactive effects, is listed as Schedule III.

Even if the plant was moved into a lower schedule, federal law would still consider marijuana illegal. However, the reclassification would make it easier for scientists to research the medical benefits of cannabis.

[Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images]