On Monday Patrick Leahy (D-VT), U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, scheduled a long overdue hearing to address the discrepancies between federal and state marijuana laws that will include the entire 18 - member committee to be held on the morning of Tuesday, September 10.
Senator Leahy, a longtime champion of drug prohibition reform, reserved the oversized Room 216 in the Hart Senate Office Building for the hearing, a space typically utilized for high - profile cases like Supreme Court confirmations. It is an apt choice given the significance of the issue before the committee.
Leahy issued a statement Monday indicating that he invited both U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy AG James Cole to testify. No word yet if either Holder or Cole intend on being there -- the official witness list will be released closer to the hearing date.
Leahy's aim is to clarify the Obama administration's heretofore murky marijuana enforcement. Currently, 20 states (and D.C.) have legal medicinal cannabis with Colorado and Washington having legalized recreational use for those 21-plus.
In his press release, Senator Leahy succinctly delineated the purpose of the upcoming hearing: “It is important, especially at a time of budget constraints, to determine whether it is the best use of federal resources to prosecute the personal or medicinal use of marijuana in states that have made such consumption legal. I believe that these state laws should be respected. At a minimum, there should be guidance about enforcement from the federal government.”
Cannabis activists expressed optimism over the hearing announcement. Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of Drug Policy Alliance said in a statement: “This is an important development for all sorts of reasons -- not least because the Senate has been so remarkably passive on marijuana issues even as twenty states have legalized medical marijuana and two have legalized it more broadly. I am delighted that Senator Leahy now seems ready to provide much needed leadership on this issue."