Gun runner Eric Holder used to take Cannabis
US Attorney General Eric Holder admits using marijuana
America’s top law official says he experimented with drugs during his college years
Rosa Prince By Rosa Prince, New York4:03PM BST 15 Apr 2014CommentsComments
Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States, has admitted using marijuana while at university.
Claiming he had been advised to characterise his dope-smoking days as “youthful experimentation” when applying for government jobs, Mr Holder said he had felt uncomfortable jailing youngsters for marijuana possession while serving as a judge.
He added that he was “cautiously optimistic” about how the decriminalisation of the drug was proceeding in two states which legalised recreational sales of marijuana nearly a year ago.
Mr Holder attended New York’s Colombia University in the 1970s, studying history before staying on for law school.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, he said he had always disclosed his drug-taking experiences in background checks when applying for government jobs.
“Yeah, I certainly have said in my four, five, whatever number confirmation hearings I’ve had that you fill out the forms, that I had ‘youthful experimentation’ – I think was the phrase that we were told to use – when I was in college.”
Mr Holder joins a growing list of senior American officials who have admitted to drug use in their past, including President Barack Obama, who has said he smoked marijuana at high school.
Around half of the prisoners in US jails are incarcerated for drug offences, with arrests for marijuana possession surpassing those for all violent crimes combined.
A study by the the Federal Bureau of Investigation has found that an American is arrested for a marijuana-related offence every 42 seconds on average.
Mr Holder said: “Well, I’ll tell you, as a former judge, I had to put in jail substantial numbers of young people for possessory drug offences, and it was not from the perspective I had as a judge necessarily a good use of law enforcement resources.
“When I became US attorney we put in place certain guidelines so that people would not end up, especially young people, with criminal records and all that then implies for them.”
Mr Holder added that while he felt positive about the way legalisation was proceeding in Colorado and Washington, it was unclear if the rest of the US would follow suit.
“I think it’s hard to tell,” he said. “I think there might have been a burst of feeling that what happened in Washington and Colorado was going to be soon replicated across the country.
“I’m not sure that is necessarily the case. I think a lot of states are going to be looking to see what happens in Washington, what happens in Colorado before those decisions are made in substantial parts of the country.
“The federal government is not going to be involved in the prosecution of small-time, possessory drug cases, but we never were.”