Nation & World News

U.S. ‘Ought To Respect’ State Marijuana Laws, Sen. Leahy Says

By Carrie Johnson on August 27th, 2013

The Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee says he’s done waiting for answers about how the Justice Department will handle marijuana offenses in states that have legalized small amounts of the drug.

Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy has asked Attorney General Eric Holder or his deputy to appear at a Sept. 10 hearing on Capitol Hill — and to be prepared to state the Obama administration’s policy on the issue. Leahy’s been asking questions ever since Washington and Colorado voters approved marijuana for recreational use in last year’s elections.

Holder has said for months that the Justice Department is studying how it will handle the state initiatives. And the Office of National Drug Control Policy hasn’t responded to Leahy’s now months-old letter asking about the issue, the chairman said.

“There’s only so many resources,” Leahy told NPR in a telephone interview. “And to waste time on going after simple marijuana cases in states where it’s either been legalized, or legalized for medical uses, seems like a bad use of our limited law enforcement dollars.”

Leahy says federal authorities should devote time to cracking down on violent crime and deadly drug cartels — and he says he wants assurances that state officials will not face criminal jeopardy for carrying out their duties to license marijuana exchanges in the 20-odd states where marijuana is legal for medical purposes.

“The federal government ought to respect” these decisions by states, Leahy says.

The conflict stems from the 1970 federal law known as the Controlled Substances Act, which continues to include marijuana among its Schedule I drugs — the most tightly regulated substances, considered to have a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use.

In recent years, coalitions of drug reformers, including some former law enforcement officers, have called for a looser approach to regulating marijuana. But that stance has been unpopular, especially within the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Leahy says he’ll use the hearing next month to explore whether the change can be accomplished through executive branch action or whether Congress needs to legislate on the issue. At first blush, “this would require a national decision but it could be all taken care of by prosecutorial discretion,” he says. “It is a state and federal conflict and it’s one we don’t need.”

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

This entry was posted in News from NPR. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.

 

More Stories in News from NPR

Scientists Discover Evidence of a 435,000-Year-Old Murder

Scientists say it’s not just a murder from another era, but also part of one of the earliest mass graves.


Tracy Morgan, Wal-Mart Settle Lawsuit Over Truck-Limousine Crash

The actor sued the retail giant for negligence last year after he was seriously injured in a crash in which his limousine was struck by a Wal-Mart truck traveling 20 mph over the speed limit.


This rabbit wasn't the one killed in Denmark.

Danish Broadcaster Says Killing Of Rabbit On Air Highlighted Hypocrisy

The rabbit was clubbed to death during a debate on animal cruelty. Radio24syv says it wanted a debate about the hypocrisy toward perceptions of cruelty toward animals. Critics aren’t buying it.


Rick Santorum speaks in Des Moines, Iowa, on Sept. 24, 2012. The Republican announced Wednesday that he is running for president.

Rick Santorum Announces Presidential Run

The former Republican senator from Pennsylvania appeals to his party’s social conservatives. Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses in 2012, but this time around he faces a crowded Republican field.


Research Chimps Get Their Day In Court In New York

But neither Hercules nor Leo, who are at the center of a legal battle over whether chimpanzees should have the same legal rights as people, were physically present in the Manhattan courtroom.


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Underwriting Payments