Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Marijuana: Senators pressure White House, federal tide is turning

Posted By on Tue, Jul 29, 2014 at 3:16 PM

click to enlarge From left, Sens. Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet. - COURTESY SENATE.GOV
  • Courtesy senate.gov
  • From left, Sens. Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet.

Colorado began recreational-marijuana sales in January; Washington did earlier this month; and Alaska and Oregon are set to vote on the matter in a couple months. It seems like a good time to get a firm word from the White House on how its administration will proceed with marijuana.

The head of Obama's Drug Enforcement Agency, a holdover from the W. Bush administration, openly criticizes his approach; the Office of National Drug Control Policy is actually required by law to oppose legalizing banned substances; and various U.S. attorneys have been more hostile than others toward the plant. And then there's this mess with federal water going to cannabis grows.

So it's no surprise that the four senators from Colorado and Washington — Sens. Michael Bennet, Mark Udall, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, respectively — yesterday sent President Obama a pointed letter.

"We believe the federal government should support Colorado and Washington state's effort to establish a successful regulatory framework in a way that achieves greater certainty for local officials, citizens, and business owners as they tackle this complicated and important task," it reads. "At times, however, certain federal agencies have taken different approaches that seem to be at odds with one another and may undermine our states' ability to regulate the industry adequately."

This comes on the heels of a vote from the U.S. House of Representatives in favor of allowing banks to work with medical-marijuana centers; Sens. Rand Paul and Cory Booker introducing an amendment that supports MMJ programs; and a Pennsylvania representative writing a bill that would legalize the Colorado strain Charlotte's Web.

You might look at the New York Times' recent editorial in favor of outright legalization as proof that the effort has gone mainstream. Of course, it doesn't take much courage to follow where the majority of the country is headed, but it's a nice sign. Naturally, the White House, limited by law as it is, rejected the call.

Still, this pressure from four senators — pressure that's sure to grow as quickly as the movement spreads — is another interesting sign in the federal realm.

"To ensure such consistency and uniformity, we believe it is appropriate for the White House to assume a central and coordinating role for this government-wide approach," reads the letter. "We therefore believe it is incumbent upon the Administration to work with all federal departments and agencies setting forth a clear, consistent and uniform interpretation and application of the [Controlled Substances Act] and other federal laws that could affect the industry. Such guidance should reflect the same deference to our state laws as does the Cole memorandum."

Colorado and Washington Federal Letter


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