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Leahy Schedules Marijuana Hearing, Wants State Laws Respected

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy will hold a hearing on marijuana policy after the Senate returns and said Monday that state laws legalizing the drug “should be respected.”

The Vermont Democrat’s inviting Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Deputy Attorney General James Cole to testify at the Sept. 10 hearing. Presumably expecting a large audience, Leahy has scheduled the hearing in the oversized hearing room in the Hart Senate Office Building that is used for major events such as Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

“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,” Leahy said in a statement. “I believe that these state laws should be respected. At a minimum, there should be guidance about enforcement from the federal government.”

The announcement of the hearing, which will focus on conflicts between state and federal laws, follows last week’s statement by White House spokesman Josh Earnest that President Barack Obama has yet to change his view on the issue of legalized marijuana use.

“The president acknowledged that, the priority here — the priority in terms of the dedication of law enforcement resources should be targeted toward our drug kingpins, drug traffickers and others who perpetrate violence in the conduct of the drug trade, that that is the best use of our law enforcement resources,” Earnest said. “At the same time, the president does not — you know, at this point, advocate a change in the law.”

That statement came in response to a question that came one day after a CQ Roll Call reporter brought up the subject at the daily White House press briefing.