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

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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. Rudy NYC

    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.,
    Marijuana is supposed to be in its' natural state, as found in nature. Neither heroin or cocaine occur naturally in nature. They are man-made drugs, which are refined from organic ingredients.

    January 29, 2014 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  2. AntiIgnorant

    Any negative comment that can be made about cannabis is applicable to alcohol and pharma man-made drugs to an even greater degree. Why must the lies and hypocrisy persist regarding marijuana?

    Cannabis has plenty of verifiable medical uses yet it is still a schedule 1 drug...why? Because big pharma lobbies hard against it. They know that they will not be able to patent nature and control a plant.

    Wake up people, you have been fed lies. Cannabidiol has been shown to turn off cancer development and save lives, help with life threatening seizures in children... Search Dravet Syndrome, among other uses.

    It is time to stop believing the refer madness propaganda and research for yourself to find the truth.

    Stop the lies and legalize! Nature over synthetic!

    January 29, 2014 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  3. it must be said

    It is safe to say that most dope smokers and drug users are liberals and Deomcrats. Note I used the word MOST. Can we fund a government study to determine this for sure?

    January 29, 2014 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    "It is time to stop believing the refer madness propaganda and research for yourself to find the truth."

    The only way we'll get conservatives to do that is if we offer them a replacement method for destroying young black men's lives via the criminal justice system. Without that replacement, it's gonna be a tough sell.

    January 29, 2014 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  5. tom l

    All I know is that I would have loved to have been a participant in the Choom Wagon.

    January 29, 2014 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  6. Silence DoGood

    It is fun to see pot pulling apart conservatives. Those with a libertarian bent are all for it in the interest less regulation and more personal responsibility. While those with more of a holier-than-thou religious mentality like to point the "sinner" finger at pot smokers. With more people all the time in favor of legalization Holder is responding to the public, the people, and that is driving both camps nuts.

    January 29, 2014 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  7. Bill from GA

    Sniffit "Obama ...stated that the federal gov't has the right to enforce its own laws, even in states that legalize it."

    Two problems with Barry's 'Head-In-The-Sand' approach. We are still needlessly arresting hundreds of thousands of Americans each year, and, maybe the next Prez goes back to full Federal enforcement, including medical marijuana clinics. I've got a problem with both of those issues, in a country supposedly the LAND OF THE FREE.

    Other comments appear to say, "I don;t like what you are doing, so you should be arrested". Not worth responding to.

    January 29, 2014 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  8. just asking

    "It is time to stop believing the refer madness propaganda and research for yourself to find the truth."
    The only way we'll get conservatives to do that is if we offer them a replacement method for destroying young black men's lives via the criminal justice system. Without that replacement, it's gonna be a tough sell.

    interesting... how do you explain away, or lie away, all of the black on black crime in the inner cities? i guess conservatives have some sort of mind control techniques right?

    January 29, 2014 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  9. tom l


    What you call "pulling apart" is just a difference of opinion which I think is a good thing. I appreciate that you have pointed out that there are many different positions and thoughts by conservatives and that we don't all think nor act exactly the same. First Rudy points out that Romney paid more than his fair share and now you point out that not all conservatives think the same. Pretty cool day today. 😉

    January 29, 2014 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  10. Richard L Smith

    Wake up smith! Heroin and Cocaine do NOT grow in soil. They are derivatives of plants that grow in soil. Marijuana, per se, is not a drug, it is a plant. Granted, it contains THC which has been classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance (by the government). Peruse those words carefully "by the government". The OPERATIVE word here is "CONTROLLED". Tobacco and Alcohol are far worse drugs than MJ and Cocaine. The issue here is the government cannot control either of the latter. Pharmaceutical cocaine in still produced today, under government supervision. For what reason? Wanna take a guess? Money can buy anything, ANYTHING! Seeing how you profess to be a herbal/botanical expert, let me know ASAP where I can buy heroin plants and cocaine plants! Were you born stupid, or do you work at it?

    January 29, 2014 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  11. The Real Tom Paine


    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.
    Has anyone mentioned that they want to see the mass retailing of all drugs? As usual, you're making an assumption based upon ideology, not experience or common sense that leads you to the most extreme vision possible. Besides, as a conservative, maybe you should get in on the production/distribution side, or maybe just the retailing end: the payout would certainly be to your liking: who cares as long as you get rich?

    January 29, 2014 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
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