Tuesday: U.S. Senate to Hold Sham Hearing on Marijuana Legalization

Press Release April 3, 2016
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<p>Tony Newman 646-335-5384</p>

On Tuesday morning, Senator Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Feinstein (D-CA) will hold a hearing in the Caucus on International Narcotics Control titled “Is the Department of Justice Adequately Protecting the Public from the Impact of State Recreational Marijuana Legalization?” The hearing is ostensibly a response to a recent GAO report that criticized DOJ for a lack of oversight of states that have legalized marijuana. However, the hearing is likely to be nothing more than a prohibitionist party.

“These hearings are a one-sided sham with the deck stacked with witnesses who have a track record of vehemently opposing marijuana legalization,” said Michael Collins, Deputy Director at Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “An honest evaluation of marijuana legalization would include the undeniable benefits of legalization like the massive drop in marijuana arrests, the billions in taxes, and the transition from an underground market to a regulated one. A more even-handed hearing would also address the destructive harms of marijuana prohibition."

Grassley and Feinstein have invited the Attorney General from Nebraska, whose lawsuit against Colorado and its legalization law were recently thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court. Another witness is a board member of notorious anti-marijuana group Project SAM. And another witness  is a U.S. Attorney who has vigorously prosecuted medical marijuana cases in California. Grassley’s own views on marijuana legalization are well-documented. In 2009, he commented that “marijuana is a gateway to harder drug use,” a theory that has been widely debunked.  Grassley has been known for his openness and impartiality on many issues, often allowing witnesses to appear on panels and oppose bills he supports.

Against this backdrop, this hearing is all the more disconcerting.  “Invites to policymakers and experts who have worked in support of marijuana reform must have been lost in the mail,” said Collins.

Grassley’s decision to hold a hearing on marijuana legalization is bizarre given the fact that he is under pressure to hold a hearing and vote in the Judiciary Committee on the bipartisan CARERS Act.  The CARERS Act has broad support and would affirm the right of states to set their own medical marijuana policies, reschedule medical marijuana to Schedule II, enable access to CBD oil, allow banks to provide financial services to marijuana dispensaries, permit VA physicians to recommend medical marijuana to veterans, and eliminate barriers to medical marijuana research. “Grassley should concentrate on issues that affect his state, instead of grandstanding,” said Collins.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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