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US Senate to hold hearing on resolving state, federal cannabis laws

By Tony Newman, drugpolicy.org

WCL News — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced on August 25, 2013 that he would address discrepancies between federal and state marijuana laws at a September 10 hearing. With 20 medical marijuana states and two allowing legal adult use, Leahy has invited US Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole to testify.

In a December 2012 letter to US Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, Leahy had asked how the federal government intends to deal with states like Colorado and Washington, which have legalized non-medical adult use, and suggested that federal legislation could be introduced to legalize up to an ounce of marijuana, at least in states that have legalized it. He had also sought assurances that state employees would not be prosecuted for implementing state laws.

There are several bipartisan bills in the US House that would reform federal marijuana laws, but so far none in the Senate.

“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,” said Senator Leahy. “I believe that these state laws should be respected.”

“This is an important development for all sorts of reasons – not least because the Senate has been so remarkably passive on marijuana issues,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “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.”

The hearing will be held on Tuesday, September 10, at 10 a.m. in Room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building, Washington DC. — West Coast Leaf News Service

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