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August 26, 2013

Senator Leahy looking for answers from DOJ on pot policy by September 10 hearing

Everyone eager to find out how the US Justice Department plans to deal with federal marijuana law and policy in the wake of various significant state reform efforts should now mark September 10, 2013 on their calendars.  That's because, according to this post a The BLT, on that Tuesday three weeks from now, Senator Patrick Leahy is going to convene a hearing at which he plans to ask DOJ about its plans. Here are the details:

When it comes to marijuana laws, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) wants to know whether the U.S. Department of Justice plans to prosecute or pass.

Nearly a year after voters in two states legalized marijuana possession, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman once again plans to ask Justice Department officials how they will handle the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws.

Leahy has invited Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole to testify at a September 10 hearing about Washington and Colorado legalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use, as well 20 states and Washington D.C. legalizing medicinal marijuana.

But Holder and the Department of Justice have given no public indication of the federal government's planned response to the state initiatives. Holder, testifying in the Senate in March, said he would reveal a policy "relatively soon." In the meantime, Colorado officials told TPM last week that they believe the delay amounts to "tacit approval" from the Justice Department to implement the marijuana laws....

Leahy has written the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy about the issue, and questioned whether state officials who license marijuana retailers are risking prosecution for carrying out their duties.

"It is important, especially at a time of budget constraints, to determine whether it is the best use of federal resources to prosecute the personal or medicinal use of marijuana in states that have made such consumption legal," Leahy said in a written statement. "I believe that these state laws should be respected. At a minimum, there should be guidance about enforcement from the federal government."

Holder drew criticism from some medical marijuana advocates for a speech earlier this month concerning mandatory-minimum sentences, which are often in play in drug cases. Holder, in his remarks, did not get into the tension between state and federal marijuana laws.

The statement announcing Senator Leahy's plans for this hearing is available at this link from the Senator's website.

August 26, 2013 at 10:29 PM | Permalink

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