U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says he is “cautiously optimistic” about the recent legalization of cannabis in Colorado and Washington, but doesn’t necessarily share the view that legalization advocates have for the progress of the movement over the next 10 years.
“I’m not just saying that, I think it’s hard to tell,” Holder said in a jury room at the federal courthouse in Charleston, which he visited as part of the Justice Department’s Smart on Crime initiative. “I think there might have been a burst of feeling that what happened in Washington and Colorado was going to be soon replicated across the country. I’m not sure that is necessarily the case. I think a lot of states are going to be looking to see what happens in Washington, what happens in Colorado before those decisions are made in substantial parts of the country.”
Regardless of the AG’s feelings on the issue, nationwide advocates are pushing for marijuana law reforms from decriminalization to all out legalization. Holder warns that even in the two legal states his department reserves the right to step in if the 8 guidelines set last year are not followed, but does admit that the banking system needs to be involved. Without access to banking services legal canna-businesses become targets for criminals since they are forced to sit on large sums of cash. It’s also disturbing that banks have been laundering illegal drug funds for years and only face slap on the wrist penalties, while those they launder for are subject to full prosecution. That needs to change.
“I think what people have to understand is that when we have those eight priorities that we have set out, it essentially means that the federal government is not going to be involved in the prosecution of small-time, possessory drug cases, but we never were,” Holder said. “So I’m not sure that I see a huge change yet, we’ve tried to adapt to the situation in Colorado with regard to how money is kept and transacted and all that stuff, and try to open up the banking system.”
“But I think, so far, I’m cautiously optimistic,” Holder continued. “But as I indicated to both governors, we will be monitoring the progress of those efforts and if we conclude that they are not being done in an appropriate way, we reserve our rights to file lawsuits.”
When questioned about the recent decriminalization of cannabis in the nation’s capitol, Holder (an admitted “former” pot smoker) seems to have a realistic understanding of the foolishness of the prohibition laws; but hints that his department will not be taking steps to de-schedule or re-schedule marijuana without the consent of our broken congress. Perhaps, we hope, post November 4th that tune will change.
“Well, I’ll tell you, as a former judge, I had to put in jail substantial numbers of young people for possessory drug offenses, and it was not from the perspective I had as a judge necessarily a good use of law enforcement resources,” Holder said. “When I became U.S. attorney we put in place certain guidelines so that people would not end up, especially young people, with criminal records and all that then implies for them.”
“So again, we’ll see how it works in Washington, D.C.,” Holder said.
“I think that given what we have done in dealing with the whole Smart on Crime initiative and the executive actions that we have taken, that when it comes to rescheduling, I think this is something that should come from Congress,” Holder said. “We’d be willing to work with Congress if there is a desire on the part of Congress to think about rescheduling. But I think I’d want to hear, get a sense from them about where they’d like to be.”