Sen. Patrick Leahy wants top Obama administration officials to clarify how conflicting state and federal marijuana laws should be handled.
The Vermont Democrat announced Monday that he's invited Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole to address the issue at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing next month to discuss the conflict in statutes in the aftermath of Washington and Colorado legalizing marijuana for recreational use in November and 19 states and the District of Columbia allowing the drug to be used for medicinal purposes.
Particularly, Leahy wants to know what assurances the administration are willing to give to state officials responsible for the licensing of marijuana retailers to ensure they will not face criminal penalties for carrying out their duties under those state laws.
"It is important, especially at a time of budget constraints, to determine whether it is the best use of federal resources to prosecute the personal or medicinal use of marijuana in states that have made such consumption legal," Leahy said in a statement. "I believe that these state laws should be respected. At a minimum, there should be guidance about enforcement from the federal government."
Last week, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama doesn't advocate any change in federal laws.
Earnest added that the administration's position "has been clear and consistent for some time now that while the prosecution of drug traffickers remains an important priority, the president and the administration believe that targeting individual marijuana users, especially those with serious illnesses and their caregivers, is not the best allocation for federal law enforcement resources."