Eric Holder was vague in saying a decision on state pot laws would come "relatively soon."
Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that the Obama administration still didn't have an answer on how it would handle laws passed to legalize marijuana in Colorado and Washington state, but that it would come "relatively soon."
Many watchers of the issue, however, tell Whispers they believe the administration is stalling.
Howard Wooldridge, a lobbyist for the pro-marijuana legalization group Citizens Opposing Prohibition, says Holder's remarks show the White House may not have yet made up its mind.
"How this administration is going to react to Colorado and Washington... is an enigma wrapped in a nutshell surrounded by a box in a dark room at midnight," he says. "But if I had to guess, I'd say they still don't quite know what to do."
The reason for the delay may also be that the administration is in a no-win position, according to Jeffrey Miron, a senior lecturer of economics at Harvard University who has done a number of studies on the legalization of marijuana and other drugs.
"They are in an awkward position. Any decision that challenges the new laws in Colorado and Washington will anger their base; any policy that allows those laws to stand will energize the Republicans," say Miron, who previously warned that legalization of marijuana in those two states could turn into a Supreme Court battle with the federal government. Possession or use of marijuana remains a federal crime despite the new state laws.
Adding a wrinkle to all of this is that a United Nations agency this week put pressure on the administration. In an annual report released Tuesday, the International Narcotics Drug Board said the laws in Washington and Colorado go against international drug control treaties.
A group of former U.S. drug chiefs, who similarly oppose the new laws, are also upset with the delay.
"If they don't act now, these laws will be fully implemented in a matter of months," former DEA administrator Peter Bensinger told the Associated Press, saying the delay could cause "a domino effect" for other states to legalize marijuana.
When probed by Whispers about the reason for the delay, a DOJ spokeswoman only said the agency was "in the process" of reviewing the laws. The White House did not respond to request for comment, while the Office of National Drug Control Policy declined to comment because the issue is before the Justice Department.