An interesting hearing on federal marijuana policy in the face of medical marijuana in 20 states and legal marijuana in two states was supposed to start a few minutes ago.
It hasn't yet, though.
You can watch the hearings in real time here.
I'll be popping back in periodically to update this blog post as warranted, and will be writing a feature article on it for later today.
Update: 2:50 PM EST the hearing has started. Leahy is speaking.
Update: Leahy: "I don’t think federal prosecutors should be pursuing low level users of marijuana complying with the laws of their states."
Update: 3:00 PM EST Grassley: "Marijuana is a dangerous and addictive drug....we could see a Starbucks of marijuana..."
Update: 3:20 PM EST In response to a question from Leahy, Deputy AG Cole said that a preemption lawsuit wasn't a good choice because if the federal government prevailed, marijuana would still be legal in Colorado and Washington, but there wouldn't be any regulation.
Update: 3:35 PM EST Sen. Whitehouse asks for clarity regarding not prosecuting financial institutions and others receiving funds. Cole says only if the eight federal enforcement priorities are implicated. Earlier, he suggested that the DEA wasn't going to be pressuring armored car companies to not work with dispensaries.
Update: 3:45 PM EST Cole is done. Now up are the King County, WA, sheriff, a rep of Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper, and neo-prohibitionist Kevin Sabet.
Update: 3:50 PM EST King County Sheriff Urquhart: "My experience shows me the drug war has been a failure. We've incarcerated a generation of citizens, but not stopped demand. We in the government have failed the people, and the people decided to try something else. I support I-502."
Update: 4:00 PM EST Kevin Sabet finds Deputy AG Cole's recent guidance "disturbing" and argues that the administration can take steps now to destroy the looming creation of Big Marijuana. Why open the floodgates and hope for the best?
Update: 4:15 PM EST The issue of access to banking services has been raised throughout the hearing, both by senators and by witnesses. I was a bit surprised, but I guess business is business.
I'm signing off on this post now unless someone says something really surprising in the remaining minutes. Look for our feature article on the hearing later today.