WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee will examine new options for federal marijuana policy next year following recent passage of state laws legalizing the drug for personal use, the committee’s chairman said Thursday.
Residents of Colorado and Washington voted last month to legalize up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use and allow licensing for cultivation and distribution of the drug, throwing state and federal laws into conflict. Marijuana is a controlled substance under federal law.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, suggested one option would be to amend federal law to allow possession of up to one ounce of marijuana — at least where it’s legal under state law.
“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 wrote in a Dec. 5 letter to Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The letter was released Thursday.
In the letter, Leahy wondered how the Obama administration would respond to the new state laws and asked what recommendations Kerlikowske’s office would make to the Justice Department and other agencies. He also asked what assurances the administration could give state officials responsible for licensing marijuana retailers that they wouldn’t be prosecuted for carrying out their duties.
“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,” Leahy wrote.