Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy has announced that the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing to discuss conflicts between state and federal cannabis laws next month.
Both medical and recreational cannabis laws will be addressed, in particular whether or not state employees implementing the laws will be safe from prosecution. Leahy believes that states’ rights to enact recreational laws should also be respected.
“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.”
Leahy has also invited Attorney General Eric Holder to speak at the hearing. Holder recently came out in favor of loosening some mandatory drug sentencing laws and clarified that his department would focus their resources on targeting large-scale criminal organizations. He has not, however, directly commented on laws passed in Washington and Colorado last November that legalized the possession and sales of small amounts of cannabis.
Holder will not be required to comment on Washington and Colorado’s decision to legalize, but as the Marijuana Majority’s Tom Angel stated to the Denver Westword, it would be difficult for Holder to avoid the question.
“It’d have been nice if the administration had implemented the president’s campaign pledges on day one, or if Holder had at least been truthful when he said the administration’s response to two states legalizing marijuana was coming ‘relatively soon,’” Angell continues. “But it looks like the White House is finally going to have to come up with a policy, thanks to Chairman Leahy’s invitation for the attorney general to testify specifically about this issue.”
Alongside the hearing, there are seven other proposed cannabis bills that Congress is considering, including proposals that would allow dispensaries to take business deductions on federal tax returns and bills that would legalize cannabis at the federal level, allowing states to decide for themselves how they want to handle cannabis legalization.