Senate Chairman Opens Door To Federal Legalized Pot

Sen. Patrick Leahy is looking to re-examine federal laws related to marijuana use.

Sen. Patrick Leahy is looking to re-examine federal laws related to marijuana use.

In the wake of new state laws legalizing the use of marijuana in Colorado and Washington state, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to hold a hearing on the matter, and left open the potential for federal law to mimic that found in Colorado and Washington.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Thursday released a copy of a letter written earlier to drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, asking how the Obama administration plans to use federal resources in light of the new state laws, as well as what recommendations the agency is making to the Department of Justice.

In particular, Leahy wants assurance from the administration that state officials responsible for the licensing of marijuana retailers will face no criminal penalties for carrying out their duties under state laws. One option would be to amend the Federal Controlled Substances Act to allow possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, “at least in jurisdictions where it is legal under state law,” Leahy says.

“The Senate Judiciary Committee has a significant interest in the effect of these developments on federal drug control policy,” Leahy writes.

“Legislative options exist to resolve the differences between federal and state law in this area and end the uncertainty that residents of Colorado and Washington now face,” Leahy adds. “In order to give these options full consideration, the committee needs to understand how the administration intends to respond to the decision of the voters in Colorado and Washington. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this matter.”


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