Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) plans to push the Obama administration on its possible response to the legalizing of marijuana in in Colorado and Washington state. Leahy has scheduled a Senate hearing on September 10th to focus on federal marijuana policy and how it affects state laws. Attorney General Eric Holder has been invited to testify.
Holder promised an official response to Colorado and Washington state “soon”, but six months later there still has been no announcement.
The hearing is titled Conflicts between State and Federal Marijuana Laws. It will focus on Colorado’s and Washington state’s new laws that legalized recreational marijuana as well as the numerous state medical marijuana laws enacted across the country. Currently, both medical and recreational marijuana are illegal under federal law. The Obama administration refused to move cannabis from Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act, which legally defines marijuana as having no “accepted medical use.”
This conflict between state and federal law regarding medical marijuana has caused numerous problems. Federal raids on dispensaries that are complying with state law are the most visible examples. The conflict has made it difficult for dispensaries to use banks and file taxes. It has also affected medical marijuana patients on issues ranging from employment to their second amendment rights.
Leahy is not shy about how he wants the administration to proceed. He prefers federal agencies take a hands-off approach that respects the state laws overwhelmingly approved by the voters. When Holder last appeared before Leahy, the senator told Holder he believes going after marijuana use in states where voters approved it would be a waste of limited federal resources.
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