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Senate Holds Hearing on State Marijuana Legalization [FEATURE]

The Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday afternoon held a hearing on marijuana legalization and conflicts between state and federal marijuana laws. Led by committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the hearing featured testimony from the deputy attorney general who has set Justice Department policy, two officials in states that have legalized marijuana and one critic of marijuana legalization.

The hearing marked the first time Congress has grappled with the issue of responding to state-level marijuana legalization and was notable for its emphasis on making legalization work in states where it is legal. It was also notable in that of all the senators present, only one, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), bothered to dredge up the sort of anti-marijuana rhetoric that had in years and decades past been so typical on Capitol Hill.

"Marijuana is a dangerous and addictive drug," said Grassley, who turns 80 next week. "It's illegal under international law as well, and the treaty requires us to restrict its use to scientific and medical uses. These [legalization] laws flatly contradict our federal law. Some experts fear a Big Marijuana, a Starbucks of marijuana," he lamented.

Grassley's lonely stand reflects changing political realities around marijuana policy. The other senators who spoke up during the hearing -- Democrats Leahy, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island -- all represent states where voters have already expressed support for medical marijuana and a region where support for outright legalization is high. They were all more interested in removing obstacles to a workable legalization than in turning back the clock.

"Last November, the people of Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana, and these new laws are just the latest example of the growing tension between state and federal marijuana laws and the uncertainty about how such conflicts are resolved," Leahy said as he opened the hearing. "Marijuana use in this country is nothing new, but the way in which individual states deal with it continues to evolve. We all agree on the necessity of preventing distribution to minors, on preventing criminal enterprises from profiting, and on drugged driving. But I hope that there might also be agreement that we can't be satisfied with the status quo."

The first witness was Deputy Attorney General James Cole, author of last month's policy directive notifying state governments that the Justice Department would not seek to preempt their marijuana laws and instructing all federal prosecutors to leave legal marijuana alone -- with a number of exceptions. Sales to minors, the use of guns or violence, profiting by criminal groups, a marked increase in public health consequences like drugged driving, and distribution of marijuana into non-legal states are all among the factors that could excite a federal response, Cole's directive noted.

On Tuesday, Cole reiterated and went over the policy directive for senators, but the most striking part of his testimony was his admission that the federal government could not effectively put the genie back in the bottle.

"It would be very challenging to preempt decriminalization," Cole conceded in response to a question from Leahy. "We might have an easier time preempting the regulatory scheme, but then what do you have? Legal marijuana and no enforcement mechanism, which is probably not a good situation. You would also have money going to organized criminal enterprises instead of state coffers."

The three Democratic senators all prodded Cole and the Justice Department to do something about the legal marijuana (and medical marijuana) industry's problems with banks and financial services. Because of federal pressure, such institutions have refused to deal with marijuana, leaving those businesses drowning in cash. The senators also questioned reports that the DEA had been telling armored car companies not to do business with marijuana businesses.

"What about the banking industry?" asked Leahy. "A cash only business is a prescription for problems. We're hearing that DEA agents are instructing armored car companies to stop providing services to medical marijuana companies. It's almost as if they're saying 'let's see if we can have some robberies.' What is the department going to do to address those concerns?"

"The governors of Colorado and Washington raised this same issue," Cole acknowledged. "There is a public safety concern when businesses have a lot of cash sitting around; there are guns associated with that. We're talking with FinCEN and bank regulators to find ways to deal with this in accordance with laws on the books today."

"There should be specific guidance to the financial services industry," a not-quite-mollified Leahy replied.

The committee then heard from King County (Seattle), Washington, Sheriff John Urquhart. "The war on drugs has been a failure," the sheriff said bluntly. "We have not reduced demand, but instead incarcerated a generation of individuals. The citizens decided to try something new. We, the government, failed the people, and they decided to try something new."

Urquhart saw no great tension between the federal government and legal marijuana states, and he, too, brought up the issue of banking services.

"The reality is we do have complementary goals and values," Urquhart said. "We all agree we don't want our children using marijuana. We all agree we don't want impaired drivers. We all agree we don't want to continue enriching criminals. I am simply asking that the federal government allow banks to work with legitimate marijuana businesses who are licensed under this new state law."

The committee also heard from Kevin Sabet of Project SAM (Smart About Marijuana), the voice of 21st Century neo-prohibitionism.

"In states like Colorado," he said, "we've seen medical marijuana cards handed out like candy, we've seen mass advertising. At the marijuana festival in Seattle we saw 50,000 people smoking marijuana publicly; it's the public use of marijuana that worries me. I don't see the evidence of trying to implement something robust, especially in the face of an industry that will be pushing back against every single provision. In a country with a First Amendment and alcohol and tobacco industries that profit off addiction, I worry that, inevitably, American-style legalization is commercialization, no matter the interests of state officials and regulators."

But nobody except Grassley seemed to be listening.

Marijuana legalization advocates and drug law reformers liked what they heard Tuesday.

"It feels like there's a paradigm shift underway in the Justice Department's interpretation of federal drug control law," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "They seem to recognize that drug control should be first and foremost about protecting public health and safety, and that smart statewide regulatory systems of the sort that Colorado and Washington are proposing may advance those objectives better than knee-jerk enforcement of federal prohibitions."

"For years, the legalization movement has been gaining traction as people learn this is neither a fringe issue nor a partisan one, but one responsible for deep inequities in our justice system, the expansion of criminal gangs and the increase in unsolved violent crimes," said Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) board member and former Denver cop Tony Ryan. "There's a long road ahead, and this hearing leaves many questions unanswered, but this historic discussion means we are on our way to a more rational and effective drug policy."

"The Department of Justice is finally taking seriously the dangers that a lack of access to simple banking services poses to consumers, employees and business owners," said Aaron Smith, director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. "We are encouraged that the growing consensus among essentially all stakeholders is that banking access must be available to legal businesses. It portends a quick reform to this dangerous and unnecessary situation."

"The era of robust state-based regulation is here," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Legalizing marijuana and shrinking the number of people behind bars in the US is an issue the left and right can join together on. Like the repeal of alcohol prohibition, the repeal of marijuana prohibition will save taxpayer money, put organized crime syndicates out of business, and protect the safety of young people."

But at a time when marijuana prohibition remains the federal law of the land, perhaps former Seattle police chief and LEAP member Norm Stamper had the most down-to-earth take.

"While I would have liked to have seen a substantive change in policy, what we were really listening to in that hearing was the sound of a changing political climate," said Stamper. "People who can't agree on any other political issue are coming together over this one, and politicians on both sides of the aisle ignore that at their own peril."

Washington, DC
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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There was one mention of

There was one mention of moving marijuana to schedule 2 so doctors could write prescriptions for marijuana without worrying about losing their licenses,,it was Leahy or the senator from CT and was said at about half volume so I didn't pay it much mind,mainly because Grassley didn't clutch his heart and holler for Martha,,,that man has shot down more drug reform bills in congress than any other legislator.

Iowa,Grassley's state,has already moved marijuana to schedule 2 so perhaps he didn't catch it,,would love to hear the discussion on that subject behind closed doors. Our hope is that Iowa reform supporters will retire his old ass.

Legalize Nationwdie!

The "War on Marijuana" has been a complete and utter failure. It is the largest component of the broader yet equally unsuccessful "War on Drugs" that has cost our country over a trillion dollars.  Instead of The United States wasting Billions upon Billions of more dollars fighting a never ending "War on Marijuana", lets generate Billions of dollars, and improve the deficit instead. It's a no brainer.  The Prohibition of Marijuana has also ruined the lives of many of our loved ones. In numbers greater than any other nation, our loved ones are being sent to prison and are being given permanent criminal.records which ruin their chances of employment for the rest of their lives, and for what reason?  Marijuana is way safer, and healthier to consume than alcohol. Yet do we lock people up for choosing to drink?  Marijuana is the safest and healthiest recreational substance known to man, with many wonderful medical benefits as well.  Even The President of the United States himself has used marijuana. Has it hurt his chances at succeeding in life? If he had gotten caught by the police during his college years, he may have very well still been in jail today! Beyond that, he would then be fortunate to even be able to find a minimum wage job that would consider hiring him with a permanent criminal record. Let's end this hypocrisy now!  The government should never attempt to legislate morality because it simply does not work and costs the taxpayers a fortune.  Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that's approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think and there is nothing they can do to stop it!  Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

I totally agree. A crime

I totally agree. A crime without a victim! Classify alcohol and tobacco on the same schedule of marijuana and watch the consequences. Send your Reps. informative articles on the beneficial uses of hemp and the medical benefits of THC.

Maybe their staff will forward the message to them and the article actually gets read. Perhaps impeachment and recalls are the better solution.

Uh no. LSD and psilocybin are

Uh no. LSD and psilocybin are the safest recreational substances known to man. They are safer than Caffeine. Yes, you read that correctly. Francis Crick discovered the double helix of DNA on LSD. You might not be looking at your iphone right now if Steve jobs didn't use it. He named it one of the two or three most important things in his life. Wake up, who cares about marajuana legalization.

To show you I'm not some

To show you I'm not some crazy loon demonized stereotype, I laugh when anyone mentions anything 'spiritual' about these substances. You must be kidding me, I say.


Intelligence is the real enemy for those that don't want change. And LSD might as well be the fruit of the wisdom tree. Quit spreading your disinformation. You are just like the politicians that hold back the human race.

letting 80 year olds speak for the country

"Nooooooo!  If we legalize marijuana, people will relax and listen to music!  We can't have that, it's dangerous!  Not to mention, they'll have racing thoughts!  We don't need the public thinking unless it's about their jobs and we have caffeine for that!"

A bunch of old conservative skeletons fear the public learning compassion and terrified of change like always - why do we let these lobbying financial demonic clowns run things for us.  We have a brilliant young generation making strong points but everything continues to move at a slow pace.  He even SAID that he fears a marijuana business - it's obvious that he's scared of the public waking up and the businesses he lobbies for having dramatic profit loss even though he's probably already a multi-millionaire.  These people are completely soulless greedy monsters.  No one brings up the most simple argument about this all that we've heard a million times - it's safer than alcohol and tobacco, yet we continue to spend millions of dollars attacking it (and, again, it's our own bodies).  The world needs to relax - then maybe things would improve.  If you keep marijuana illegal then you have no right to say that things shouldn't change about alcohol or cigarettes - even pills (all 3 of which KILL people everyday, yet they say marijuana is dangerous when it hasn't killed a single person).  The majority of people against it do more harmful things to their bodies - it's the most hypocritical thing I've ever heard of.  I also like bringing up this point: senses are the main experience of life and marijuana enhances them... that's a miracle in my eyes and even sounds like an advanced state of evolution that you can temporarily experience.  Like I keep saying, they are scared of something.  There wouldn't be any dramatic changes in the nation, especially considering the fact that the majority of supporters already are FINDING WAYS TO DO IT ON THEIR OWN.  They make it seem like there will be some terrible uprising the moment the laws change or that everyone will turn into stereotypes.  Any politician against it has been funded by the multi-billion dollar companies that would take an arrow to the knee if hemp were introduced to the economy (do some search - it was the biggest crop, and a requirement, in the days of our forefathers).  Also again, they are scared of the racing thoughts it causes to some people.  Alcohol and television shut our thoughts off.  Everytime something negative happens involving marijuana (like the shooting at the Colorado smoking celebration which was probably paid for by a big corporation or the first high-driving accident on the west coast) gets plastered all over the news and all the rednecks continue to celebrate it with a "told ya so! the sky is falling!" type attitude.  I remember when Michael Phelps didn't win the gold medal in his first swimming competition after the smoking incident - people raced to forums and were claiming that marijuana ruined yet another life and it was the cause for it yet had nothing to say when he swept the victory away again.

This entire situation is getting out of hand.  The fact that they've managed to brainwash millions of public citizens to even be against it is just mind boggling to me and even seems like it might be a statistical lie.  Legalization is going to happen whether or not these old fools like it - they can continue to fight it to slow it down but what's the point.  In the 2 states that legalized marijuana, opposing parties did NOT raise enough funs to lobby against the movement.  It's time to give up the fight.  Legalization will change the world for the better and I can promise you that.  I almost never see any comments on news articles against legalization anymore - the public is changing.  Anytime I see arguments against legalization on message boards or forums, it's always about stereotypes - nothing else.  I have to keep saying it: the politicians against it fear profit loss and public change - they're all bad people.  GIVE IT UP.

Well played sir. Very well

Well played sir. Very well played. Behind you 100%

Impaired driving

Because it's fat soluable, THC remains detectable in the body long after there's any issue of impairment. Since most people drive, there's danger that the impairment issue might turn into a backdoor to de facto prohibition.

pot test

There is already a simple oral swab test that tests for the presence of active THC in your system rather than the inactive stored in fat cells to determin if you are stoned at the time or not just most departments "forget" they have access to this test because then people they would otherwise be able to arrest would walk free which is bad business don't forget in america our police are a for profit organization along with our courts and prison system. How so sick is that.

First thing

First thing I am gonna do when they make marijuana legal is sue the military for discharging me over it.

Marijuana Not Placed On Schedule One Due To Science

Marijuana’s status as an illegal drug “isn’t based on a whim,” Senator Grassley said. “It’s based on what science tells us about this dangerous and addictive drug.”   Actually Senator Grassley you should be old enough to remember the way that marijuana was placed on schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act: The Congress asked the Department of Health, Education and Welfare for their recommendation where marijuana should be placed in the Controlled Substances Act. The response, by letter of 8/14/70, of the Assistant Secretary for Health and Scientific Affairs [Roger O. Egeberg] is as follows: "...Some question has been raised whether the use of the plant itself produces 'severe psychological or physical dependence' as required by a schedule I or even schedule II criterion. Since there is still a considerable void in our knowledge of the plant and effects of the active drug contained in it, our recommendation is that marihuana be retained within schedule I at least until the completion of certain studies now underway to resolve the issue. If those studies* make it appropriate for the Attorney General to change the placement of marihuana to a different schedule, he may do so in accordance with the authority provided under section 201 of the bill.." *"Those studies" were concluded in the 1972 Schafer Commission report, which recommended removing marijuana from the scheduling system and decriminalizing it. President Nixon rejected their recommendation.  Instead, Tricky Dick Nixon stuck us with has become a 1.3 Trillion dollar War on Drugs. In fact Senator Grassley, marijuana was placed on schedule I due to a lack of evidence.  Nixon and you sir, ignored the science so that you could continue spreading lies about this incredible natural herbal medicine. In the entire history of mankind's association with this plant that goes back to before the stone age, no one has ever died of an overdose solely of marijuana.  Stop lying to the people!  We don't believe you anymore!
RockyMissouri's picture


Thank you for being so very well-informed...!! You make me proud...

LOL...Grassly is so ironic

LOL...Grassly is so ironic with his citing things like the UN convention when he is quite likely antiUN kinda guy. Also, I bet he is a states rights sort of guy, but I guess that goes out the window when its not what he wants.

Smoking at pot festivals

They seem to be worried about people smoking cannabis at pot festivals but nobody complains about people drinking at all the other festivals.  Its really getting tiring!

Drew B's picture

Grassley's Birthday

Send the guy a Happy Birthday wish today. ;-)

I would suggest avoiding the topic of cannabis, but encourage him in his efforts to get the DEA to finally provide the information to the GAO which it is seeking, i.e. pill shortages.

This is very important and clearly he is in favor of this, which I suspect us anti-prohibitionists are too.

Medical Cannabis

I have been blown up a couple of times by IEDs so now I get horrible headaches lasting many days. After trying many different heachache medications (some making it worse).. and even oxycontin (which has the street name "Hillbilly heroin" ... and it horrible side effects when you take it and when you stop taking it. I finally tried cannabis.. my headaches are now gone in 15 minutes... it helps PTSD tremendously. And zero serious side effects... And considering that many different scientific studies prove Cannabis is the best way to fight off cancer. I highly recommend anyone interested to watch "What if Cannabis cured cancer" ...     Its interesting to note that we already have endocannabinoids in our system which is called the "endocannabinoid system" ... drug companies thought they could suppress "the muchie" effect by suppressing endocannabinoids... for a weight loss medication... well this had drastic effects including depression and cancer/tumor growth. The Government has carried on this charade that cannabis has no medical value for many years, because of big business wanting cannabis / hemp off the market so they could bring in their prescriptions and man made chemicals.. 

To the Government: If cannabis is so bad why is it prefered by millions of patents world wide over other prescription drugs which cause side effects? If cannabis is so bad why has there never been a reported overdose since earths creation?  If cannabis is so bad why is the synthetic version of cannabis a scheduled 3 drug, yet it has known to cause multiple overdoses in comparison to its natural counterpart.   If cannabis is so bad why do you have

U.S. Patent 6630507?

driving stoned

I would much rather see a stoned individual driving than someone drunk driving. Our streets would be much safer if you only had to worry about someone sitting too long after the traffic light had turned green, rather than worrying about a drunk driver crashing into and killing other drivers.

While I support legalization........

Your logic is flawed. Sitting at a traffic light while after the light has changed, when traffic is moving along at a good speed is never a good idea. When driving one needs to be sharp esp with the amount of people on the road today. 

It's about personal responsibility and making the correct choice, this is what is going to help the legalization effort. 

Any action taken by another that has a negative effect on the legalization effort, will be amplified by the MSM. 

Keep that in mind. 

Years and years of hard work towards legalization and thousands of people working for the cause can be negated by a few people making poor decisions. 




 My question to you is "Do you really believe that marijuana That God has an issue with Marijuana??? Thats interesting. Don't get me wrong I would never be support people smoking or indulging in the effects of marijuana while at church or some other religious institution, but I consider myself a hard working . blue collar, christian man with values and morals. I am no drinker,If you believe that marijuana is wrong than why not push for prohibition or reform of laws regaurding alcohol. I have never crashed a vehicle, fought anyone, or  broke any laws while I was under the influence of marijuana. Alcohol is a way more dangerous gateway drug with longer and more life changing consecquences. I personally believe that God doesn't have a problem with marijuana. And as long as any person is responsilble the reprecussions for legalization will be minimal.

Legalize it.

Hi, my Dad who will be 79 this December was against the legalization of marijuana for years. He believed the propaganda that was being said. Through the years though he met many people who smoked marijuana. The people he knew to to be smoking marijuana were from members of the family, people at work and friends. He saw that none of those people he met went on to harder drugs and lived good and decent lives. 

About five years ago, we were talking about legalization of marijuana and he said he thought having it illegal was wrong and the policy should be changed.

I asked why and he said, I have not seen anyone I know (who smoke marijuana)  use harder drugs and they live good lives and they are my friends.  

What I draw from this is people are seeing the truth and it is becoming difficult for the lies and the propaganda to stick.  


War on Drugs vs. War on Marijuana

I think one mistake people are making is focusing exclusively on marijuana. Because it helps them, a family member or friend they become an advocate for this one drug. It is a kind of selfish thing to dom. There are categories of people with depression, who do not respond to hconventional psychiatric medication, but are helped by certain opiates(buprenorphine, oxymorphone, poppy tea), but can't get it because of the DEA. There are people who suffer from panic attacks, but can't get access to diazepam, because it is deemed "drug seeking" behavior, making doctors fearful to prescribe it to clients because of the DEA. There are nonviolent, successful taxpayers that use testosterone, or HGH for cosmetic, fitness or life extension purposes that can't get access to them because doctors & therapists fear having their practices wrecked by the DEA. None of these people need to have their licenses revoked, receive felonies, end up getting incarcerated where they can be stabbed, murdered & raped in government cage, that costs taxpayers $52,000 a year per person(multiple that times a few million). All of these medications are far less devastating, than the alcohol or cigarettes.....yet they are treated as though they are by the are by those who consume them. It isn't just about marijuana, it's about constitutional rights laid out by those who founded the country of people to make there own decisions. The job of government is to protect its citizens from harm by others, not protecting citizens from themselves. If you support the constitution, then *all* drug prohibition must end.

War on Drugs vs. War on Marijuana

I think one mistake people are making is focusing exclusively on marijuana. Because it helps them, a family member or friend they become an advocate for this one drug. It is a kind of selfish thing to dom. There are categories of people with depression, who do not respond to hconventional psychiatric medication, but are helped by certain opiates(buprenorphine, oxymorphone, poppy tea), but can't get it because of the DEA. There are people who suffer from panic attacks, but can't get access to diazepam, because it is deemed "drug seeking" behavior, making doctors fearful to prescribe it to clients because of the DEA. There are nonviolent, successful taxpayers that use testosterone, or HGH for cosmetic, fitness or life extension purposes that can't get access to them because doctors & therapists fear having their practices wrecked by the DEA. None of these people need to have their licenses revoked, receive felonies, end up getting incarcerated where they can be stabbed, murdered & raped in government cage, that costs taxpayers $52,000 a year per person(multiple that times a few million). All of these medications are far less devastating, than the alcohol or cigarettes.....yet they are treated as though they are by the are by those who consume them. It isn't just about marijuana, it's about constitutional rights laid out by those who founded the country of people to make there own decisions. The job of government is to protect its citizens from harm by others, not protecting citizens from themselves. If you support the constitution, then *all* drug prohibition must end.


That this article hasn't changed in weeks. I hate our government soooooooo much!

o.k it sounds a little extreme, but its true! I started smoking

o.k it sounds a little extreme, but its true! I started smoking when i was extremely young. around cousins friends you know people that did it too and i had easy acces to it. I smoked for around 13 years, heavy too! then realized i was bored with it, it cost alot, and i just decided to stop. And stoped i did for around 12 years. Then 3 years ago i started having a lot of problems balancing, griping things, and lots of unexplained pain. To make a long story short i have muscular dystrophy, not a fatal form that attacks the brain, but one that atacks the nerves in my body and dries them up, then the muscles deteriate becouse of none movement. Constant pain was my life for 2 years, sleeping only 1 to 2 hours a night. Blood presure slowly climbing each month, lost of appetite, quite frankly i was just pissed off and hurt 24/7. And for anyone thinking why didnt he use opiates, like codiene, vicodene. They dont work for a person with my disease, nothing they gave me did. Finally the doctors said just come back every 6 months and will keep track of how your progressing! thats it nothing else can be done! so one day as i was sitting in a foot doctors office waiting to be worked on i picked up a magazine, wont say name of it in case i cant. but saw an article on a spray that manufacters want to make that is made out of canibas extract, it affects pain receptors in the brain that opiates do not! allso said that alot of ms. patients in europe have recieved fantastic results from the product on blocking there pain!
so i research more about it.

since i no longer am around the people i used to do it with. I know no one to help me, luckily i still new one old friend and i call him to score me some to try, beleave me it wasnt a fast thing, i researched for 3 months before i broke down and called the friend. It was a miracle,took two puffs, got extremely high! and the pain was gone for around 3 hours. And i mean 100% gone no pain at all!!! i slept that night for 7 hours and every since i sleep great, my eating has gotten better, and no pain. Im still limited on getting around becouse of the muscles, but im not pissed off anymore im not in pain 24/7 anymore, and i can sleep and get my rest, and guess what my blood pressure came down to a perfect level know! I"m a legal marijuana user holding 2 cards so far, and it was all thanks to the computer! i find all my information hear! the 420 lounge has been the best site so far as to helping with all the knowledge i need to know ! from making water hash { by the way Thankyou for that one! i will post another story on that one some other time!} which helps the best and longest for my needs. to just general info that a person needs when he no longer knows people that use. SO TO PUT IT SIMPLY MARIJUANA SAVED MY LIFE!

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