<p>Contact: Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Ethan Nadelmann 646-335-2240</p>
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced Monday that he will address discrepancies between federal and state marijuana laws in an upcoming hearing on September 10. Leahy has invited Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole to testify. Twenty states now allow medical marijuana, and Colorado and Washington recently became the first two states to approve the legal regulation of marijuana for non-medicinal purposes.
Last December, in a letter to U.S. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, Senator Leahy asked how the federal government intends to deal with states like Colorado and Washington. In the letter, Senator Leahy also suggested that federal legislation could be introduced to legalize up to an ounce of marijuana, at least in states that have legalized it. He also sought assurances that state employees would not be prosecuted for implementing state laws.
There are several bipartisan bills in the U.S. House that would reform federal marijuana laws, but so far none in the Senate.
Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, offered this statement:
“This is an important development for all sorts of reasons – not least because the Senate has been so remarkably passive on marijuana issues even as twenty states have legalized medical marijuana and two have legalized it more broadly. I am delighted that Senator Leahy now seems ready to provide much needed leadership on this issue.
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. 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.”