Reaction to U.S. Senate Marijuana Hearing

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing today on the federal-state divide over marijuana laws. The following is a statement from Marijuana Majority’s Tom Angell:

“It’s about time our federal lawmakers took up this issue. Polls show that the majority of voters support legalizing and regulating marijuana, but far too many elected officials continue to act like this issue is still some dangerous third-rail of politics that’s too dangerous to touch. This is a serious, important and mainstream issue, and it’s good to see politicians finally treating it as such.

“As senators made clear today with important questions about legal marijuana providers’ access to banking, armored car services and tax write-offs that are available to any other business, the Obama administration’s recent memo to prosecutors is a good first step, but it will not remove all of the roadblocks that stand in the way of effective implementation of state marijuana laws. The next step is for Congress to amend the Controlled Substances Act to make it clear that America is moving in a new direction when it comes to marijuana policy.

“As Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse pointed out today, the Obama administration has repeatedly shifted its marijuana policy since 2009, when it released a memo saying that medical marijuana providers operating in ‘clear and unambiguous compliance’ with state law would not be a focus for federal law enforcement. Since that time, though, this president has overseen the closure of more state-legal marijuana businesses in one term than were shuttered during two terms of the Bush administration. It remains to be seen whether prosecutors will follow through this time and finally help the president uphold his campaign pledge to respect state marijuana laws.

“One thing the the president could do right now to signal that he’s serious about this most recently announced shift in policy would be to use his commutation powers to release some of the medical marijuana prisoners that have been put behind bars by his federal agencies.”