September 10, 2013 will go down in reform history as the day the Senate figured out it’s not if we legalize marijuana but how we legalize marijuana.
Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called a hearing on the Justice Department’s reaction (or lack of reaction) to the legalization measures passed in Washington and Colorado. The hearing was attended by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). The senators questioned Deputy Attorney General James Cole, Seattle Sheriff John Urquhart, Jack Finlaw (Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Chief Counsel) and Project SAM Director Kevin Sabet. Here are some of the choice quotes from the day’s proceedings:
“I hope, though, there might be agreement that we can’t be satisfied with the status quo. We know the black market for illegal marijuana in this country endangers public safety. The black market continues to contribute to violence along the southwest border. It continues to thrive despite the billions of dollars that have already been spent on enforcement efforts on the federal, state, and local levels. It’s also clear that the absolute criminalization of personal marijuana use has contributed to the nation’s soaring prison population. It’s disproportionately affected people of color. And in this context it’s no surprise that states are considering new calibrated solutions beyond the traditional laws.” -- Senator Patrick Leahy
“My experience shows the War on Drugs has been a failure. ... I support 502 because that’s what the people want. They voted for legalized marijuana. We—the government—have failed the people and now they want to try something else. Too often the attitude of the police is ‘We’re the cops and you’re not. Don’t tell us how to do our job.’ That is the wrong attitude and I refuse to fall into that trap.” -- Sheriff John Urquhart
“I think you’ll discover that not only will Colorado’s regulators and law enforcement want to partner with federal law enforcement, but the industry will, as well. One of the things I have discovered in working on marijuana issues over the last ten months is how entrepreneurial, how much integrity the folks in our state that have developed these new business have.” -- Jack Finlaw
“Colorado and Washington have now become -- and have now been given the green light -- to become the first jurisdictions in the world to allow for the creation of large, for-profit marijuana entities, far surpassing any reforms in Europe.” – Kevin Sabe
We’re sure Kevin Sabet meant that to sound like it was a bad thing.