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Washington, D.C. -- Less than two weeks after the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a memorandum on how it intends to enforce marijuana laws in states that have legalized its use, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold unprecedented hearings this Tuesday at 2:30am ET, focusing in part on the details of that enforcement plan. Medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) will also be hosting a Google Hangout at 5pm ET following the hearings on Tuesday to discuss the reaction to the testimony. The media and general public are invited and encouraged to join the Google Hangout by logging into the ASA YouTube page.
What: Senate Judiciary hearings on the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws, followed by a Google Hangout to discuss the reaction to the testimony
When: Senate Judiciary hearings Tuesday, September 10th at 2:30pm ET; Google Hangout at 5pm ET
Where: The hearings will take place in Hart Senate Office Building, Room 216; the Google Hangout will take place online at the ASA YouTube page.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to hear testimony from Deputy Attorney General James Cole, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper's Chief Legal Counsel Jack Finlaw, King County Sheriff John Urquhart, and Drug Policy Institute Director Kevin Sabet. While part of the hearings will focus on the new marijuana legalization laws in Colorado and Washington, advocates are urging the Committee to question the DOJ specifically on how the new policy will change enforcement practices from the current aggressive tactics which have left hundreds of thousands of patients without access to a medication legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia.
"I've long urged the federal government to stay away from states where they have legalized the use of marijuana, or legalized medical marijuana, and the reason I am holding my hearings is to get a very clear understanding of what they want to do," Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) told The Atlantic last week. "We only have so many resources for law enforcement and to waste time on...marijuana in states where it is legal makes absolutely no sense."
The Google Hangout following the hearings will feature federal defendants, family members of those incarcerated by the DOJ's war on medical marijuana, legislators like Kriss Worthington of the Berkeley City Council, which has vowed legal action against the DOJ for its attempts to shut down one of the oldest and fully licensed dispensaries in California, Huffington Post D.C. Bureau Chief Ryan Grim, as well as Tracey Duval, the wife of recently incarcerated Michigan patient Jerry Duval, and several others with compelling stories about federal enforcement.
"The DOJ doesn't have a great track record of honesty when it comes to testifying before Congress and an even worse record of wrangling U.S. Attorneys to follow their policies," said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. "Over one million medical marijuana patients are depending on the Committee to hold their feet to the fire." ASA also sent a memo today to Senate Judiciary members, pointing them to the questions that patients are seeking answers to.
The unprecedented federal attacks by the Obama Administration in medical marijuana states over the past 4 years, including undermining attempts to develop the same regulatory laws that the DOJ says it will respect, leave plenty of unanswered questions about the veracity of the government's latest policy pronouncement. Despite repeated claims to ease enforcement, the DOJ has conducted at least 270 SWAT-style raids in medical marijuana states and forced the closure of more than 600 dispensaries in California, Colorado and Washington by threatening property owners with asset forfeiture and criminal prosecution.
The Google Hangout will also feature discussion of ASA's Peace for Patients campaign, which is aimed at bringing attention to the impact of the DOJ's aggressive practices and calling on Congress to pass binding legislation that will restrict the funding for those same enforcement practices.
Details on the Senate Judiciary hearings
Details on the Google Hangout
Last month's memorandum from Deputy Attorney General Cole
Memo from ASA to Senate Judiciary members