Holder: ‘Reclassifying drugs under Controlled Substances Act? Ummm … that is not my department.’

They prefer, however, to dance around this fact—as Eric Holder did yesterday at the National Press Club. During the Q&A portion of his appearance, he was asked whether he would advise to president to take steps towards reclassifying marijuana, as is his prerogative under the Controlled Substances Act. Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule 1 drug, making it legally on par with far more dangerous drugs like heroin.

“I’m not sure that the underlying premise is necessarily true, I think that Congress ultimately has to do that,” Holder replied.

He followed that up with vague comments about how this is “a topic that ultimately ought to be engaged in by our nation”; how there is “a legitimate debate to be had on both sides of that question”; and how one should “take into account all the empirical evidence that we can garner to see if it is as serious a drug that would warrant Class I categorization.”

Rescheduling marijuana would not make it legal under federal law, but it would free up medical research and allow tax deductions for legal marijuana businesses. Even some groups that oppose recreational marijuana use, like the American Academy of Pediatrics, have appealed to the government to allow at least limited research on the drug’s benefits. AAP released a position paper last month calling for rescheduling.