Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced on Monday that the committee will look at the divide between federal and state marijuana laws in a September 10, 2013 hearing.
“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 statement. “I believe that these state laws should be respected. At a minimum, there should be guidance about enforcement from the federal government.”
According to Roll Call, both Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director James Comey have been invited to testify at the hearing, which was called less than a week after White House spokesperson Josh Earnest issued a clarification on President Barack Obama’s position on enforcing federal marijuana laws.
“The president acknowledged that, the priority here — the priority in terms of the dedication of law enforcement resources should be targeted toward our drug kingpins, drug traffickers and others who perpetrate violence in the conduct of the drug trade, that that is the best use of our law enforcement resources,” Earnest said at a press briefing. “At the same time, the president does not, you know, at this point, advocate a change in the law.”
Twenty states, as well as the District of Columbia, have legalized medicinal marijuana use, while residents of both Washington and Colorado voted in November 2012 to legalize small amounts of the drug for personal use.
Update, 10:56 a.m. EST: The executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Ethan Nadelmann, said in a statement released Monday that he is “delighted” that Leahy will be bringing the issue before the committee.
“The ballot initiatives in Washington and Colorado made history not so much because they legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana but because they mandated that state governments regulate and tax what had previously been illicit markets,” Nadelmann said in the statement. “Ending marijuana prohibition not just in the states but also nationally is going to require the sort of leadership that Senator Leahy is now providing.”
[Image via Agence France-Presse]