HOLDER, MEDICAL MARIJUANA, AND GOP IRE…. About a month ago, Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters that the Justice Department will no longer raid medical marijuana clubs legally established in states. The announcement fulfills a campaign promise President Obama made last year.

Yesterday, Holder followed up by clarifying the shift in law enforcement of federal drug laws.

Speaking with reporters, Mr. Holder provided few specifics but said the Justice Department’s enforcement policy would now be restricted to traffickers who falsely masqueraded as medical dispensaries and “use medical marijuana laws as a shield.”

In the Bush administration, federal agents raided medical marijuana distributors that violated federal statutes even if the dispensaries appeared to be complying with state laws. The raids produced a flood of complaints, particularly in California, which in 1996 became the first state to legalize marijuana sales to people with doctors’ prescriptions.

Graham Boyd, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union drug law project, said Mr. Holder’s remarks created a reasonable balance between conflicting state and federal laws and “seem to finally end the policy war over medical marijuana.” He said officials in California and the 12 other states that have authorized the use of medical marijuana had hesitated to adopt regulations to carry out their laws because of uncertainty created by the Bush administration. […]

He said dispensaries operating in accord with California law would not be a priority for the administration.

This strikes me as something of a no-brainer, but Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is nevertheless outraged by Holder’s remarks. “This Attorney General is not doing health care reform any good,” said Grassley. “The first rule of medicine — ‘do no harm’ — is being violated by the Attorney General with this decision.”

Grassley, using talking points I haven’t heard in a while, insisted that pot is a “gateway drug” that could lead to methamphetamine abuse. (He didn’t say what led him to this conclusion.)

As for the notion that Holder is “not doing health care reform any good” because he’ll allow states to follow their own drug laws, it’s scary to think a major initiative like health care reform would be undermined, even a little, by a simple Justice Department shift.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.