Attorney General Eric Holder Defends Stance Classifying Marijuana as More Dangerous Than Meth
Holder appeared in front of the House Judiciary Committee, where members attacked him on marijuana -- and from all sides.
Republicans bashed Holder for last summer's Cole Memo, in which the federal Justice Department said -- for at least the second time -- that they wouldn't enforce the Controlled Substances Act in states that had legalized marijuana as long as they followed a specific set of rules.
Meanwhile, Democrats took Holder to task for keeping marijuana a Schedule I controlled substance. Isn't putting pot in the same class as heroin and LSD -- and ruling marijuana not as dangerous as cocaine or methamphetamine -- just plain silly?, they asked.
No, Holder responded, it's not silly at all.
Yesterday's four-hour hearing was as good a microcosm of the paralyzing polemics that have seized up the gears of government in Washington.
On one hand, you had fresh-faced U.S. Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) who wanted Holder to explain why the feds don't bust every pot smoker in the land "Would you have us prosecute every marijuana possession case that exists in the United States of America? Would you have us do that?" Holder shot back in response, according to POLITICO.
And in the other corner, you had U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and his questioning of marijuana scheduling. Long a problem with drug war opponents and followers of "science" alike, keeping cannabis a Schedule 1 controlled substance also stifles research into the drug.
The federal government has so far successfully fended off petitions to reschedule filed in the courts -- but, as Cohen pointed out, Holder could make a move right now to remove weed, which seems to have loads of medical benefits, from the list of drugs that have no medical benefits and are addictive.
Here's how it went down, POLITICO reported:
"In my humble opinion -- and, I think, the majority of people in this country -- there's no way that marijuana should be Schedule I, because it's not in the same class as heroin, as is LSD," Cohen said. "There are certainly medical bases...for multiple sclerosis, for children with epilepsy and seizures, and so it has medical benefit. Schedule I says no medical benefit. Well, that's just fallacious. ... Why will you not act?"
Cohen said it was strange that Obama administration has proudly taken executive action on immigration, environmental and labor policies, but not on reclassifying marijuana.
"Why won't the administration act with the pen and the phone to help people out?" the congressman asked.
"I think we actually have acted in a responsible way," Holder replied.
When Cohen said it was "obvious" that marijuana was miscategorized, the attorney general gave an answer that captured the disparate views on display at the hearing.
"What's obvious to one perhaps is not obvious to another," Holder said.
Meanwhile, Maryland became the 21st American state to approve the medical use of marijuana. And in Boston, which is supposed to have two medical cannabis dispensaries opening soon, Mayor Martin J. Walsh (a recovering addict) vowed to block them any way he could. It's perhaps worth mentioning that a compound found in marijuana may also slow the destruction of the liver in alcoholics, a recent study showed.