Powering Up : Obama’s Attorney General
President-elect Obama has decided to tap Eric Holder as his attorney general, putting the veteran Washington lawyer in place to become the first African-American to head the Justice Department, according to two legal sources close to the presidential transition.
Holder, who served as deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration, still has to undergo a formal “vetting” review by the Obama transition team before the selection is final and is publicly announced, said one of the sources, who asked not to be identified talking about the transition process. But in the discussions over the past few days, Obama offered Holder the job and he accepted, the source said. The announcement is not likely until after Obama announces his choices to lead the Treasury and State departments.
Eric Holder was also a US Attorney in Washington DC in the mid-1990′s. This piece from the Washington Post, Monday, September 9, 1996, entitled “Marijuana’s Violent Side”, Holder is calling for stricter penalties in the District for personal marijuana possession.
In addition, U.S. Attorney Eric H. Holder Jr. said in an interview that he is considering not only prosecuting more marijuana cases but also asking the D.C. Council to enact stiffer penalties for the sale and use of marijuana.
“We have too long taken the view that what we would term to be minor crimes are not important,” Holder said, referring to current attitudes toward marijuana use and other offenses such as panhandling.
Holder said he hopes to discourage some of that activity by being tougher on marijuana crimes. New guidelines should be in place by the end of the month, he said, noting that the District could learn from New York’s “zero-tolerance” policy. There, crime plummeted when police aggressively enforced quality-of-life crimes, including panhandling and public drinking, which gave officers an opportunity to check for drugs, guns and outstanding warrants.
“If you take these so-called minor crimes seriously and treat them fully, it has a ripple effect,” Holder said.
The problem is in lumping in personal marijuana use with these other “minor” crimes. Panhandling and public drinking affect others in the public square. Personal possession of marijuana doesn’t harm anyone in the public square. (Public smoking should be like public drinking: only for adults in specially-marked and patrolled areas – otherwise, we don’t arrest people for carrying a six-pack in a grocery bag on their way home, the same should go for a dime bag.)
Marijuana is only a crime by statute, not a crime with a victim. Vandalism and graffiti are bad for a neighborhood because they infringe on others’ property and intimidate the public. Marijuana is only bad for a neighborhood because a statute puts marijuana under the control of criminals.
President-elect Obama’s selection of Eric Holder for Attorney General does not initially bode well for the “change we can believe in”, especially following the selections of Joe “Mandatory Minimums” Biden as Vice President and Rahm “Silence Doctors on MedMJ” Emanuel as Chief of Staff.
However, it isn’t the 1990′s anymore. Not one but thirteen states have medical marijuana. Nine of ten marijuana ballot initiatives passed. The president has a 8 million vote mandate for change and strong majorities in the House and Senate. Economic realities may force a re-evaluation of federal marijuana policy. Maybe in the era of Obama we’ll see change in the hearts and minds of Biden, Emanuel, and Holder.
But I’m not betting my Stash on it.