Answers Sought for When Marijuana Laws Collide

Sep 12, 2013

A deputy attor­ney gen­eral told the Sen­ate Judi­ciary Com­mit­tee on Tues­day that the Jus­tice Depart­ment had begun work­ing with Trea­sury offi­cials and finan­cial reg­u­la­tors to clar­ify how it legally deals with banks and other busi­nesses that serve mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries and grow­ers in states that have legal­ized the drug for med­ical or recre­ational use. The deputy attor­ney gen­eral, James M. Cole, said the Obama admin­is­tra­tion was ded­i­cated to enforc­ing fed­eral drug laws and was choos­ing the best among a num­ber of imper­fect solu­tions by rely­ing on states to reg­u­late mar­i­juana “from seed to sale.” The hear­ing was the first aimed at sort­ing out dif­fer­ences between state and fed­eral laws since Col­orado and Wash­ing­ton State passed mea­sures approv­ing the recre­ational use of mar­i­juana in Novem­ber. Those laws “under­scored per­sis­tent uncer­tainty” about how the Jus­tice Depart­ment resolves con­flicts between state and fed­eral mar­i­juana laws, said Sen­a­tor Patrick J. Leahy, the committee’s chair­man. Finan­cial insti­tu­tions, secu­rity providers and land­lords that serve mar­i­juana busi­nesses can be pros­e­cuted for rack­e­teer­ing, money laun­der­ing and traf­fick­ing under cur­rent fed­eral laws, which Mr. Leahy said also hin­der states in reg­u­lat­ing the bank­ing and tax­a­tion of grow­ers and dis­pen­saries. But Sen­a­tor Charles E. Grass­ley of Iowa, the panel’s rank­ing Repub­li­can, said the Jus­tice Depart­ment move was a step toward broad legal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana that would result in dis­as­trous con­se­quences for pub­lic safety and might vio­late inter­na­tional treaties. More broadly, he and other crit­ics said, the Jus­tice Department’s new pol­icy was another exam­ple of the Obama administration’s pick­ing which laws to enforce and which to dis­re­gard. Marijuana’s sta­tus as an ille­gal drug “isn’t based on a whim,” Mr. Grass­ley said. “It’s based on what sci­ence tells us about this dan­ger­ous and addic­tive drug.” Mr. Cole responded: “We are not giv­ing immu­nity. We are not giv­ing a free pass. We are not abdi­cat­ing our respon­si­bil­ity.” He said the agency would go after mar­i­juana providers who mar­ket the drug to chil­dren or who try to sell it across state lines. Advo­cates for mar­i­juana legal­iza­tion say a more coör­di­nated effort between states and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment would be an improve­ment over cur­rent poli­cies that have failed to rein in drug car­tels and reduce vio­lence. The Jus­tice Depart­ment said last month that it would not seek to pre-empt the state laws as long as states set up “robust” reg­u­la­tions to keep mar­i­juana oper­a­tions from run­ning afoul of the agency’s top enforce­ment pri­or­i­ties, like pre­vent­ing chil­dren and drug car­tels from obtain­ing the drug and pro­hibit­ing its use on fed­eral land. But John Urquhart, who was a police offi­cer for 37 years in Seat­tle before he became the sher­iff of King County, Wash., said states were still hand­cuffed by not know­ing how banks and other finan­cial insti­tu­tions could con­duct marijuana-related busi­ness. “I am sim­ply ask­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to allow banks to work with legit­i­mate mar­i­juana busi­nesses who are licensed under state law,” he said. Kevin A. Sabet, a for­mer drug pol­icy adviser in the Obama admin­is­tra­tion who opposes legal­iza­tion, said the administration’s deci­sion to rely on states for reg­u­la­tion ignores the Jus­tice Department’s own state­ments that some mar­i­juana oper­a­tions had already vio­lated its enforce­ment pri­or­i­ties. “I just don’t see any of that being reg­u­lated, and that’s what I worry about,” he said. Col­orado and Wash­ing­ton are among the 20 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia that allow the use of mar­i­juana for med­ical rea­sons or for recre­ation. A ver­sion of this arti­cle appears in print on Sep­tem­ber 11, 2013, on page A18 of the New York edi­tion with the head­line: Answers Sought for When Mar­i­juana Laws Col­lide. Source: New York Times (NY) Author: Ash­ley Southall Pub­lished: Sep­tem­ber 11, 2013 Copy­right: 2013 The New York Times Com­pany Con­tact: letters@​nytimes.​com Web­site: http://​www​.nytimes​.com/

8b7532b7d9637612.jpg 150x112 Answers Sought for When Marijuana Laws Collide

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Answers Sought for When Mar­i­juana Laws Collide

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