On Tuesday, former Attorney General Eric Holder criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ “almost obsession with marijuana,” at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, adding that it was right of the Justice Department to allow states to regulate recreational cannabis. Attorney General Sessions replaced Loretta Lynch who is Holder’s successor, but has signaled that he will take a much harsher approach on cannabis.
Attorney General Sessions and the Department of Justice, under his guidance, are currently considering the future of the Cole memo. The Cole memo stands in between state-legal cannabis and prosecution from the federal government. “I think that was a really good policy,” Holder said, according to the Washington Examiner. “The Sessions almost obsession with marijuana, I think, is the thing that’s put the Justice Department in this strange place.”
Congress has blocked the Department of Justice from cracking down on state medical cannabis programs since 2014. “I think the policy we had in place was a good one,” Holder added. “Let the states experiment with the notion that, again, we have these eight or nine federal factors, and if you trigger one of these eight or nine factors the feds are going to be coming in.”
States’ autonomy from the federal government is protected under the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, although its overall scope, like the rest of the Bill of Rights, is often disputed. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States,” Congress wrote on September 25, 1789. “Are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Moreover, Sessions has been accused of violating the Tenth Amendment before, according to the Tenth Amendment Center.
Journalist Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority, however, was not impressed by Holder’s comments, especially since Holder referred to recreational cannabis. “Hi, Eric Holder could have rescheduled marijuana while in office but didn’t,” Angell tweeted, reminding us that Holder could’ve done more for cannabis during his reign in office. Holder OK’d a massive crackdown on cannabis businesses in California during his tenure.
When even the former U.S. Attorney General is telling you to pump the brakes on a potential cannabis crackdown, it’s time to pause and listen.