Eric Holder Gets an Earful on Marijuana

Mar 8, 2013

Attor­ney Gen­eral Eric Holder is get­ting plenty of con­flict­ing advice as he tries to fig­ure out how the fed­eral gov­ern­ment should respond to the deci­sion by vot­ers in Wash­ing­ton state and Col­orado to legal­ize mar­i­juana for recre­ational use. The lat­est came Wednes­day from Demo­c­ra­tic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Ver­mont, the chair­man of the Sen­ate Judi­ciary Com­mit­tee, who told Holder to focus on pros­e­cut­ing larger fed­eral crimes as he deals with the fall­out of auto­matic spend­ing cuts ordered by Con­gress. If you’re going to be  because of bud­get cuts  pri­or­i­tiz­ing mat­ters, I would sug­gest there are more seri­ous things than minor pos­ses­sion of mar­i­juana, but it’s a per­sonal view, Leahy told Holder, adding that other states are sure to fol­low the lead of Wash­ing­ton and Col­orado. While Leahy urged leniency, oth­ers want Holder to use his job as the nation’s top law enforce­ment offi­cial to get tough with states that want to ignore fed­eral drug laws. On Tues­day, eight for­mer Drug Enforce­ment Admin­is­tra­tion chiefs said the Obama admin­is­tra­tion should move aggres­sively to nul­lify the state legal­iza­tion laws. And on the same day, a United Nations agency said the United States would be vio­lat­ing inter­na­tional drug treaties by allow­ing the state laws to stand. Holder told sen­a­tors that he’s review­ing the states new laws and plans a quick deci­sion after hav­ing already met with gov­er­nors of both states. We’ve had good com­mu­ni­ca­tion.… I expect that we will have an abil­ity to announce what our pol­icy is going to be rel­a­tively soon, Holder said. With the state and fed­eral laws clearly at odds, Holder is sure to face heat no mat­ter what he decides. And so far, he has given lit­tle pub­lic indi­ca­tion of what he will do. Mar­i­juana advo­cates, how­ever, are hop­ing that Holder’s boss, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, is on their side. When the pres­i­dent was asked about the new state laws in an inter­view with ABC’s Bar­bara Wal­ters in Decem­ber, Obama sug­gested that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment would be unlikely to take a hard line, say­ing: We’ve got big­ger fish to fry. As both Wash­ing­ton and Col­orado con­tinue with their plans to open mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries later this year, the legal­iza­tion issue promises to get more atten­tion on Capi­tol Hill in com­ing weeks. Leahy announced ear­lier that he wants his com­mit­tee to con­duct a hear­ing into the dif­fer­ences among state and fed­eral laws gov­ern­ing mar­i­juana. He said he wants to make sure that state laws are respected and that state offi­cials in Wash­ing­ton and Col­orado who are charged with the licens­ing of mar­i­juana retail­ers will not face fed­eral crim­i­nal penal­ties. Under fed­eral law, mar­i­juana remains a con­trolled sub­stance, and pos­ses­sion or dis­tri­b­u­tion of the drug is a crim­i­nal offense that can result in prison time. In Decem­ber, Leahy wrote a let­ter to the White House’s Office of National Drug Con­trol Pol­icy, say­ing that his com­mit­tee had a sig­nif­i­cant inter­est  in the issue and that Con­gress could act to end the uncer­tainty fac­ing res­i­dents in Wash­ing­ton and Col­orado. As one option, Leahy said, the Fed­eral Con­trolled Sub­stances Act could be changed to allow for the pos­ses­sion of up to an ounce of mar­i­juana, at least in places where it’s already legal under state law. In the House, two bills were intro­duced last month that would end the fed­eral pro­hi­bi­tion against mar­i­juana and cre­ate new reg­u­la­tory sys­tems to deal with its legal­iza­tion. One, spon­sored by Demo­c­ra­tic Rep. Jared Polis of Col­orado, would remove mar­i­juana from the list of con­trolled sub­stances and allow it to be reg­u­lated much like alco­hol at the fed­eral level. The sec­ond, spon­sored by Demo­c­ra­tic Rep. Earl Blu­me­nauer of Ore­gon, would cre­ate a fed­eral excise tax on the sale of mar­i­juana. Source: Miami Her­ald (FL) Author: Rob Hotakainen, McClatchy News­pa­pers Pub­lished: March 6, 2013 Copy­right: 2013 The Miami Her­ald Con­tact: heralded@​herald.​com URL: http://​drugsense​.org/​u​r​l​/​R​m​r​l​X​UKN Web­site: http://​www​.miami​.com/​m​l​d​/​m​i​a​m​i​h​e​r​a​ld/

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Eric Holder Gets an Ear­ful on Marijuana

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