Congress needs to reschedule marijuana, said former Attorney General Eric Holder in an interview with PBS Tuesday.
Marijuana is currently listed as Schedule I, a category relegated for drugs that have major potential for abuse and have no medical value, whatsoever. Once drugs are placed in this category, it becomes tremendously difficult to research them and permits are in scarce supply.
“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. So at a minimum, I think Congress needs to do that,” Holder told PBS. “Then I think we need to look at what happens in Colorado and what happens in Washington.”
Though Holder has hinted at support for rescheduling marijuana since 2014, he did not take any steps to unilaterally reschedule the drug while serving as attorney general — as some have argued he could have done. Congress has the sole authority to strip criminal penalties from marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act, and Holder could have initiated a review process.
Current Attorney General Loretta Lynch has not said much about rescheduling marijuana, aside from stating she opposes legalizing marijuana. However, she has signed onto the Obama administration’s approach of allowing states to decide the issue for themselves.
If marijuana is rescheduled to Schedule III, researchers could much more easily obtain the drug for study. It would also allow open marijuana businesses in states where the drug is legal to file for tax deductions.
Holder held off endorsing a broader legalization strategy.
His remarks were widely lauded by pro-marijuana organizations like Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
“I believe Holder’s statements will inspire more high-ranking officials to speak publicly about the injustices they see in our failed marijuana policies,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), in a statement. “Ultimately, his support will move us closer to ending marijuana prohibition for good.”
The Obama administration has displayed enormous sympathy for the drug. A major part of the reason why Washington and Colorado have been allowed to experiment with legalization on the state level is because the Department of Justice has deprioritized marijuana as an enforcement issue.
The drug is currently legal in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, as well as the District of Columbia.
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