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Holder: Sessions’ ‘Almost Obsession’ With Cannabis Puts DOJ in ‘Strange Place’

October 11, 2017
Former Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during the second day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia , Tuesday, July 26, 2016. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Former US Attorney General Eric Holder took aim at current AG Jeff Sessions this week, saying Sessions has an “almost obsession” with cannabis that has put the Justice Department in a “strange place.”

Holder, who also defended the Obama administration’s stance on state-legal cannabis as “really good policy,” was speaking at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice on Tuesday.

“I think the policy we had in place was a good one.”
Eric Holder, Obama-era AG

Since taking office, Sessions has repeatedly lamented state-level legalization, continuing a stream of earlier statements deriding both recreational and medical use of cannabis. His office is currently reviewing the so-called Cole Memo, an Obama-era policy under which federal authorities said they wouldn’t interfere with state-legal cannabis laws provided states met certain guidelines, such as prohibiting underage sales and diversion to the illegal market.

While the Cole Memo was never binding policy—and although Holder himself signed off on a statewide crackdown on cannabis businesses in California during his time in office—it was a key piece of the federal framework that allowed state-legal programs, such as those in Colorado and Washington state, to move forward.


Sessions Task Force Will Review DOJ Cannabis Enforcement

“I think the policy we had in place was a good one,” Holder said, according to Washington Examiner reporter Steven Nelson. “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.”

Sessions in recent months has sought to make a case that legal states are in fact failing to meet those criteria, although representatives in some of those states have pushed back against his claims. The attorney general has also appealed to Congress to remove protections that prevent federal prosecutors from targeting state-legal medical marijuana.


Jeff Sessions Asks Congress to End Medical Cannabis Protections

“The Sessions almost obsession with marijuana, I think, is the thing that’s put the Justice Department in this strange place,” Holder said.

Some activists, including Marijuana Moment writer Tom Angell, pointed out that Holder could have gone a step further by reclassifying cannabis under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

“Eric Holder could’ve rescheduled marijuana while in office but didn’t,” Angell wrote on Twitter.

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Ben Adlin

Ben Adlin is a senior editor at Leafly who specializes in politics and the law. Follow him on Twitter: @badlin

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  • Chas Hue

    Sessions can’t help himself, he is a throw-back and too old to have an open mind.
    The AG seems more incensed that America has matured, the lies about cannabis are costly and change is coming on the federal level.
    If Sessions, Trump or any public official for that matter, would understand they are not what directs the course of this nation. They are merely facilitators of the will of the people. Unfortunately, control is the game they play and personal belief and prejudice is present in how they respond to issues. All one must do is research how pathetically Sessions championed a 100 to 1 incarceration ratio, crack cocaine over powdered. If that doesn’t tell you all you need to know about this loons logic what does.

    • Izzat So

      I think you have put your finger on the explanation; Sessions has had certain perceptions burned into his brain for so long (truly reefer madness) that he is now incapable of seeing any other view. His brain is like that egg in the ads, fried to a crisp. I would feel sorry for him, if he would just go home and STFU. But unfortunately he has this obsession to make the rest of us see things his way, and Trump and his congressminions gave Sessions the AG job even though he lied during confirmation hearings. Prey for change, soon.

  • lovingc

    The obsession is not almost, it is devolving into OCD. Jeffy is insane by definition. He wants what he wants no matter how many people he harms.
    The fact of insanity is evident since he went after medical cannabis first and his ignorance of why medical cannabis is legal in 60% of the country, it saves lives and relieves pain with out addiction.
    The U.S. Patent Office issued patent #6630507 to the U.S.Health and Human Services filed on 2/2/2001. The patent lists the use of certain cannabinoids found within the cannabis sativa plant as useful in certain neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and HIV dementia.
    The United States knows it works, patents are not granted with out proof!

  • kelley davis

    keep Jeff busy till the ring can be cast in to the fires of Mount Doom

    • John Hilger

      If the Orcs don’t adopt him first! He would fit right in with a band or Orcs, they are almost as ugly as the little rat-boy.

  • jo6pac

    Sessions is crazy but Erick the holder let wall street walk free to collect billion from us tax payers instead of putting them in Jail.

  • Holder is a asshole. He should have handled cannabis properly when he could have! The only banker he would lock up is one sucking on a joint.
    Sessions is, as pointed out by other readers, a moron AND mentally deranged. (one reader called him a loon; adding that to my list) I wish Trump would fire him (and himself), but who knows who would be up next. Maybe David Duke would make a great AG for the GOP…

    • lovingc

      Pence will be worse than Trump, he would prefer a theocracy. Just wait for the inquisitions.

  • Robert Gerus

    Session’s should smoke a real THC joint and wind down a few notches he is starting to get to obsess with the hole marijuana thing that litter rat of a little man is bound to have a stroke, if he doesn’t slow down what the fuck is his problem anyway. other than being an asshole over marijuana don’t knock it till you try it. What a stupid little man??? mouse hide the cheese.

  • Stuart Cockerham

    Stop the federal fraudulent prohibition of the God-given plant marijuana; which God created and said in Genesis 1:29-31 (NLT) “That all seed-bearing plants and fruit trees thrughout the world are for our use as food and medicine, and that his creation was excellent in every way!” What part of that don’t the government agencies and politicians understand, or do they intend to go against God’s clear words of giving man not governments the right to choose what they grow, eat and what they choose to consume. It’s high time the US government quit fighting God on this issue entirely! Stop marijuana and other food rights prohibition now in Jesus’ name.

  • Jeff Hudson

    “Eric Holder could’ve rescheduled marijuana while in office but didn’t.”

    This is so true, so true.

    • lovingc

      Could haves and should haves mean nothing at all. Crying over split milk will not fill the glass. Do something about it!

  • ThorosiousD

    Sessions is and always has been a hired goon. His actions clearly indicate that he is a puppet sent in by his masters to protect their industrial / consumer supply monopolies from the certain change which cannabis will bring to the world when it becomes as free as clover. His foundation is a crumpled mass of legacy ignorance and fear which he himself believes whole heartedly. His profile suggests one of arrogant personal value and a pride level that favors self-imagery over reality based education. He shares his interference responsibilities with nearly all public forums and personnel in that they all go out of their way to ignore the massive potential of Cannabis in favor of diverting and focusing all discussion around a single negative image; The lazy pothead – hippy who threatens to leech of “hard working” Americans while endangering “our children”. It’s a game and it goes like this:
    On the left is such-N-such, while on the right is so-N-so.
    Such-N-such and his cronies/followers/believers puts billions into causes which make the followers of so-n-so shudder with fear.
    So-n-so and his cronies/followers/believers puts his billions into causes that make the followers of such-n-such pissed off.
    Meanwhile very few people know that both opponents have dined together, invested together and planned profits together while agreeing to use all means to play the left vs. right game to hide the potential of cannabis. Doing so protects both of them equally and preserves their positions.
    This is why ANY and ALL public discussions always center on a left vs. right “drug culture” instead of the thousands of products that would almost instantly be manufactured locally instead of from some consolidated world corp. Name a consolidated industry with huge connections / lobby influence and cannabis could replace it.
    Everything in our current system of life is based around industrial consolidation and centralizing governmental authority.