Leahy To Examine Marijuana Policy
Plans Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing Next Year
December 13, 2012
WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, Dec. 13, 2012) – In light of recently passed state laws legalizing personal marijuana use, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Thursday released a letter sent earlier this month to the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) seeking information about how the administration intends to proceed in light of differences between federal and state laws. Leahy also announced Thursday that he intends to hold a hearing looking into the matter when the 113th Congress convenes early next year.
Given the fiscal constraints of federal law enforcement, Leahy asked in his letter to ONDCP Director Gil Kerlikowske how the administration plans to use federal resources in light of new laws in Colorado and Washington State, as well as what recommendations the agency is making to the Department of Justice. In the interest of respecting states’ laws, Leahy also asked the ONDCP director what assurances the administration can give to state officials responsible for the licensing of marijuana retailers to ensure they will face no criminal penalties for carrying out their duties under those state laws.
“The Senate Judiciary Committee has a significant interest in the effect of these developments on federal drug control policy,” Leahy wrote. The Judiciary Committee intends to conduct a hearing on the issue in the new Congress.
“Legislative options exist to resolve the differences between federal and state law in this area and end the uncertainty that residents of Colorado and Washington now face,” Leahy wrote. “In order to give these options full consideration, the committee needs to understand how the administration intends to respond to the decision of the voters in Colorado and Washington. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this matter.”
The full text of the letter follows. A PDF is available online.
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December 5, 2012
The Honorable R. Gil Kerlikowske
Office of National Drug Control Policy
Executive Office of the President
Washington, DC 20503
Dear Director Kerlikowske:
Last month, voters in Colorado and Washington chose to legalize personal use of up to one ounce of marijuana and to enact licensing schemes for cultivation and distribution of the drug. As the states move to implement these new laws, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance according to the Federal Government. Production, distribution, and possession of the drug are Federal criminal offenses punishable by imprisonment.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has a significant interest in the effect of these developments on Federal drug control policy. How does the Office of National Drug Control Policy intend to prioritize Federal resources, and what recommendations are you making to the Department of Justice and other agencies in light of the choice by citizens of Colorado and Washington to legalize personal use of small amounts of marijuana? What assurance can and will the administration give to state officials involved in the licensing of marijuana retailers that they will not face Federal criminal penalties for carrying out duties assigned to them under state law?
Legislative options exist to resolve the differences between Federal and state law in this area and end the uncertainty that residents of Colorado and Washington now face. One option would be to amend the Federal Controlled Substances Act to allow possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, at least in jurisdictions where it is legal under state law. In order to give these options full consideration, the Committee needs to understand how the administration intends to respond to the decision of the voters in Colorado and Washington. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this matter.
U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary
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