Holder on Obama's pot comments: Any drug is 'potentially harmful'
January 29th, 2014
03:06 PM ET
10 months ago

Holder on Obama's pot comments: Any drug is 'potentially harmful'

(CNN) - The nation's chief law enforcement officer said Wednesday that any drug, including alcohol, "is potentially harmful." Attorney General Eric Holder comments follow an interview where the commander in chief appeared to express a more lenient view of smoking marijuana.

Holder was asked on Capitol Hill if he agreed with the President's sentiments on marijuana use, published in an interview with the New Yorker, where he said the smoking pot was actually less dangerous than alcohol "in terms of its impact on the individual consumer," and that overall, the drug didn't carry the social stigma that it did in the past

Sen. Jeff Sessions pressed Holder if he supported the President's assessment on the relative dangers marijuana use, specifically compared to alcohol.

"It's difficult for me to conceive how the President of the United States could make such a statement," the Alabama Republican said at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, later pointing to public figures like pop star Lady Gaga and former congressman Patrick Kennedy who have come out against the idea that marijuana use is harmless.

In the interview, Obama noted that he used pot as a kid, and sees smoking marijuana as a "bad habit and vice," differing little from smoking cigarettes, which he said he did into adulthood. The White House has said that Obama remains opposed to a nationwide decriminalization of marijuana.

Holder, who said the President did not consult him prior to the interview, told the committee that he believes "the use of any drug is potentially harmful and included in that would be alcohol."

"I think that any drug used in an inappropriate way can be harmful. And alcohol is among those," he said.

Federal law still classifies marijuana as a schedule 1 controlled substance – a drug with high potential for abuse but no accepted medical use. White House spokesman from the office of national drug control policy, Rafael Lemaitre, said Holder can remove marijuana from this classification after an independent scientific review. But Holder told CNN Justice Reporter Evan Perez that his preference was for Congress to act.

Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana use, and 18 other states as well as the District of Columbia allow some form of legal use of the drug.

The federal government said it would not challenge state laws legalizing marijuana, and at Wednesday's hearing, the Attorney General underscored throughout the questioning that federal enforcement efforts would focus on preventing marijuana use in minors.

Holder also said recently that local business selling marijuana should have access to the American banking system, and that Justice Department is working with the Treasury to come up with rules providing an avenue for banks to handle legal revenue.

CNN's Kevin Liptak and CNNMoney's Charles Riley contributed to this report.


Filed under: Eric Holder • Marijuana • President Obama
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Tony D

    Eric Holder.... the only person even more incompetent than Obama. Dangerously incompetent.

    January 29, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  2. Wake up People!

    It's not a drug, it's an herb. It grows from dirt. It's only a drug because anyone can grow it and the government can't regulate it.

    January 29, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  3. smith

    The Obama admin. has figured out that saying pot is ok or not harmful while bashing cigarettes makes you looks stupid. Also, the first lady is trying to promote a healthy lifestyle. Pot and healthy lifestyle don't mix.

    January 29, 2014 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    "later pointing to public figures like pop star Lady Gaga and former congressman Patrick Kennedy who have come out against the idea that marijuana use is harmless."

    See what CNN did there? They just turned Obama saying that "pot is less harmful than alcohol" into Obama saying that "pot is harmless." Kudos on the rewrite, CNN. Bang up job propping up your nontroversy.

    January 29, 2014 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    "The Obama admin. has figured out that saying pot is ok or not harmful while bashing cigarettes makes you looks stupid. "

    Where and when did Obama say either of those things...that pot is ok and that it's not harmful? Citation please.

    January 29, 2014 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  6. Rudy NYC

    "Federal law still classifies marijuana as a schedule 1 controlled substance – a drug with high potential for abuse but no accepted medical use."
    --------------------------------
    Remember those old yellow-looking ropes they had hin gym classes that went all the way up to ceiling? What happened to them? I know the ones in my gym class had been made from actual hemp, good, strong, stuff. Too young to remember those days? They're made from nylon or something today.

    January 29, 2014 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  7. smith

    Wake up People!

    It's not a drug, it's an herb. It grows from dirt. It's only a drug because anyone can grow it and the government can't regulate it.

    What about Heroin and Cocaine? They grow in dirt as well, are they not drugs either.,

    January 29, 2014 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  8. The REAL Truth...

    @smith – Pot and healthy lifestyle don't mix.
    ----------------------
    err... the POTUS nor FLOTUS stated that it did, and nor does any drug (including tobacco nor alcohol) go with a healthy lifestyle. But another nice anti-POTUS rant.

    January 29, 2014 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  9. Reggie53

    Very soon, our country will be full of zombies bncause of the drug habits. Somebody out there must have an agenda for us to make sure that we cannot control our own country. Go on yopu potheads, let us see what you will do when your brains stop functioning. Our president is not a good example to our youths because at one point he was also a pothead. I suppose that explains why he is so terrible being president.

    January 29, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  10. Bill from GA

    Sen. Jeff Sessions, Attorney General Eric Holder, and the President need to take more seriously the idea of freedom in this country. We all know that alcohol use can and does cause death and damage to health when abused. Can a similar case be made against marijuana? In the USA, we arrested someone for marijuana possession every 48 seconds, on average, in 2012. Who benefits by all of these arrests? Shouldn't our laws be based on real facts, and not opinions?

    One of the major impediments against marijuana research is the Federal law. It is time for the Federal Government to get some clear answers or remove Federal penalties. Even in the backward state of Georgia, our government is considering legalizing medical marijuana. But it will still be illegal based on Federal law.

    January 29, 2014 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  11. just saying

    Reggie53
    Very soon, our country will be full of zombies bncause of the drug habits
    -–

    it can be clearly shown that 42% are clearly zombies as that is how many still support obama after 5 yeeats of abject failure.

    January 29, 2014 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  12. smith

    @real &sniffles- The Obama admin. until recently has been in support of the decriminalization and legalization of pot. Hence, saying pot is ok and not harmful. I didn't quote the potus.

    January 29, 2014 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  13. The REAL Truth...

    @just saying – it can be clearly shown that 42% are clearly zombies as that is how many still support obama after 5 yeeats of abject failure.
    -----------------------–
    Nah, it obvious to most intelligent folks that the zombies are the 48% that voted for the abject failure that was shellacked in last Nov's election.

    January 29, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  14. with a grain of salt

    Reggie, I'll put my IQ against yours any day, and I've smoked it for over thirty years, and im likely in much better shape than you as well. My point is you can't classify everyone like that.

    January 29, 2014 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  15. smith

    Rudy NYC

    "Federal law still classifies marijuana as a schedule 1 controlled substance – a drug with high potential for abuse but no accepted medical use."
    ----------–
    Remember those old yellow-looking ropes they had hin gym classes that went all the way up to ceiling? What happened to them? I know the ones in my gym class had been made from actual hemp, good, strong, stuff. Too young to remember those days? They're made from nylon or something today

    Rudy, you didn't try smoke some of that rope did ya?..lol

    January 29, 2014 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  16. Me

    Reggie53

    Very soon, our country will be full of zombies bncause of the drug habits. Somebody out there must have an agenda for us to make sure that we cannot control our own country. Go on yopu potheads, let us see what you will do when your brains stop functioning. Our president is not a good example to our youths because at one point he was also a pothead. I suppose that explains why he is so terrible being president.
    _______________
    Stop living in the stone age, you would be surprised who uses it, lawyers, doctors, and many many others. I would hardly call them stupid or that their brains are non-functioning! What business is it of yours what anyone wants to put in their body, NONE? The funny thing is you probably wrote that post while drinking a beer....

    January 29, 2014 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  17. Harold Read

    "Y tu, Brute?!"

    Bill sank his dagger in by telling Obama to help the people who lost their policies due to Obamacare.
    Hillary has gotten in some subtle stabs, like claiming she would never deal with people who don't negotiate, while Obama and Reid caused the 2013 Obama Government Shutdown.
    Now Eric?!

    January 29, 2014 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  18. HenryMiller

    And any Democrat is 'potentially harmful' to American society and the American economy.

    January 29, 2014 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    Remember those old yellow-looking ropes they had hin gym classes that went all the way up to ceiling? What happened to them? I know the ones in my gym class had been made from actual hemp, good, strong, stuff. Too young to remember those days? They're made from nylon or something today

    Rudy, you didn't try smoke some of that rope did ya?..lol
    --------------------–
    Nah. But, it is why they got rid of all of the ropes of that type.. All I know is that they were easy to climb, man.

    January 29, 2014 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  20. Rudy NYC

    Me wrote:

    Stop living in the stone age, you would be surprised who uses it, lawyers, doctors, and many many others. I would hardly call them stupid or that their brains are non-functioning! What business is it of yours what anyone wants to put in their body, NONE? The funny thing is you probably wrote that post while drinking a beer....
    ---------------------
    Shock and Awe. What are you saying? Are you saying that the Tea Party does it, too?

    January 29, 2014 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "The Obama admin. until recently has been in support of the decriminalization and legalization of pot. Hence, saying pot is ok and not harmful. I didn't quote the potus."

    Except no they haven't been in support of the decriminalization and legalization of pot "until recently." Obama has always and consistently opposed legalization and quite clearly stated that the federal gov't has the right to enforce its own laws, even in states that legalize it. His decision not to sue Colorado and Washington over their decriminalization/legalization of it was borne out of practicality and good legal sense, because Colorado and Washington are allowed to change their state criminal laws, etc...and the feds can still enforce the federal ones. Moreover, absolutely nothing he has said or done equates to "pot is not harmful" and he took great pains to explicitly clarify that he was, in fact, not saying that when he said it is less harmful than alcohol.

    January 29, 2014 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  22. Rudy NYC

    Rudy, you didn't try smoke some of that rope did ya?..lol
    ------------------------------
    I smoke the same stuff that Albert Einstein smoked. Okay? :)

    January 29, 2014 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    "Shouldn't our laws be based on real facts, and not opinions?"

    Of course they should, but stringent marijuana laws, mandatory sentencing and blatantly unequal enforcement behavior make for a great way to tear down demographics the conservatives find to be....shall we say...inconvenient.

    January 29, 2014 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  24. The REAL Truth...

    @smith – The Obama admin. until recently has been in support of the decriminalization and legalization of pot. Hence, saying pot is ok and not harmful.
    -----------------------–
    There's a HUGE difference between decriminalization/legalization vs. stating it's OK and not harmful. The two are not transitive by any means. Many, many, many tests have shown that the "harm" caused by pot is far less than tobacco and alcohol. Both accepted by society and legal. Why not pot?

    January 29, 2014 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  25. Donna

    Me
    What business is it of yours what anyone wants to put in their body,
    -–

    Because these stoned people affect others around them or may get behind the wheel of a car and kill others. And then there are the ones that can't control their usage and get hooked on it and start stealing to support their habit which eventually moves to other drugs.

    I suppose you would like to see the free availability of all drugs on the shelves of Walmart or CVS? The cocaine-mth-heroin aisle. What's the harm? Who cares if kids get ahold of these loaded guns masquerading as drugs.

    January 29, 2014 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
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