Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) will hold a hearing on the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws next month, and he hopes Attorney General Eric Holder will be there to testify.
“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.”
The Senator invited both Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole to testify at the hearing.
Twenty states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. Colorado and Washington recently became the first two states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
However, federal authorities have continued to raid medical marijuana dispensaries in states where they are legal. The Department of Justice has also been notably silent about how it plans to treat legal marijuana in Colorado and Washington.
Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, praised Leahy for holding the hearing.
“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,” he said in a 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. Now is the time for his colleagues to stand up as well in defense of responsible state regulation of marijuana.”
Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest recently said the Obama administration had no plans to change its policy towards marijuana.