During a Congressional hearing Friday Holder was pressed for why the administration chose to selectively enforce the Controlled Substance Act when it comes to marijuana in certain states but not push to change the law.
Holder responded, “With regard to the whole question of the scheduling marijuana, we would be more than glad to work with Congress if there is a desire to look and re-examine how the drug is scheduled. As I said there is a great deal of expertize that exists in Congress, that is something Congress would ultimately have to change and the administration would be glad to work with Congress if such a proposal is made.”
He later added that he, “thinks the responsibility for [rescheduling] resides with Congress.”
While Congress can pass a law rescheduling marijuana, its input is not needed or normally sought. The Controlled Substance Act explicitly gives the Attorney General the power to change the schedule of drugs without congressional involvement. The vast majority of drug scheduling changes are done using this executive system. It’s actually the duty of the Attorney General to reschedule any drug, including marijuana, based on the latest science.
Holder knows this is the case. And I’m very skeptical if he would be glad to work on such a proposal because his department has actively fought in court against rescheduling.
Ultimately, the real reason marijuana is Schedule I is because Holder’s department fought to keep it there and he is the one who has the responsibility to move it from this category. Saying this is something “Congress would have” to change is completely dishonest.
Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy