I'm curious to see what questions are asked at the upcoming federal Senate hearing dealing with the Department of Justice's (DOJ) approach to marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado. At the time the hearing was scheduled, no one knew anything about how the DOJ would respond. However, recently the DOJ issued a memo claiming that they would respect state laws on the matter. Of course, many marijuana activists are skeptical given a similar memo was issued in regards to state medical marijuana laws, yet raids continued. Below are questions from a letter that was sent from California NORML to Senator Dianne Feinstein in hopes that they will be asked at the hearing:
Dear Sen. Feinstein:
Here are some questions for the Department of Justice which we hope you will ask at the upcoming Judiciary Committee hearings on federal policy with regards to state marijuana laws. Cal NORML welcomes the A.G.'s announcement that DOJ will not seek to overturn state marijuana laws. We strongly support his proposed guidelines for federal enforcement and hope the state legislature will act expeditiously to enact a "strong and effective" regulation system in California, as called for by the A.G.
Questions FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER:
(1) Will the DOJ and DEA stop pressuring banks and financial institutions to deny services to cannabis businesses that are operating legally under state law? Forcing cannabis businesses to deal in cash only invites crime. A DOJ official told the Huffington Post that DOJ would not prosecute banks for serving legitimate cannabis businesses, but this hasn't been confirmed in writing, nor is it clear whether DOJ's policy extends to the DEA or other federal agencies.
(2) Similarly, will the DEA desist from its recently reported policy of pressuring armed security services into not serving cannabis businesses?
(3) Will the DOJ direct DEA to stop sending threatening forfeiture letters to landlords of cannabis businesses that operate legally under state law?
(4) Will the DOJ direct the BATF to rescind its prohibition on gun sales to otherwise law-abiding medical marijuana users - especially after having given automatic weapons to Mexican narco-trafficantes under operation "Fast and Furious".
(5) Will the DOJ rescind its threats to prosecute local officials who try to regulate marijuana, as happened in Mendocino County, where US attorneys coerced the county supervisors to repeal their path-breaking 9.31 outdoor cultivation ordinance that successfully promoted compliance with environmental, public safety, and land use laws, while raising over $600,000 in fees for the sheriff's department?
(6) Will the DOJ direct DEA to reconsider its obsolescent, 40-year-old policy of treating marijuana as a Schedule I drug with no medical use? As you know, it has now been 17 years since Californians first voted to approve the medical use of marijuana. Since then, 20 states plus the District of Columbia have followed suit, along with such nations as Canada, Israel, Czechoslovakia, and the Netherlands.
In the meantime, there have been dozens of published studies showing medical benefits of marijuana, including several FDA-approved human studies by California's Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research. When then-DEA administrator Asa Hutchinson was asked about rescheduling marijuana in 2002, he responded that would require studies of the kind then being planned by CMCR. Despite this, in denying the latest rescheduling petition by the Coalition to Reschedule Cannabis, the DEA totally disregarded the latest evidence from CMCR and other sources, claiming that it would only consider large-scale, Phase 3, FDA studies, which have been impossible to conduct due to the DEA's own regulations.
(7) Will the DEA desist from obstructing scientific studies by denying access to marijuana for research purposes? The DEA has insisted on giving monopoly control over marijuana research to NIDA, rejecting an application by the University of Massachusetts to establish a medical cannabis research garden. Doing so, it overruled the decision of its own administrative law judge, Mary Ellen Bittner, that establishing such a garden would be in the public interest. The result has been to prevent any Phase 3 FDA studies from being conducted, since NIDA has repeatedly said it has no interest in letting its marijuana be used for such purposes. In effect, the DEA has created a Catch-22 situation, demanding that marijuana be proven through studies that it refuses to permit in the first place.
(7) Will the DEA eliminate obsolescent rules that prevent legitimate researchers from using marijuana that is legally produced under state laws? At present, DEA regulations preclude research with anything other than NIDA's marijuana. This prevents research with the hundreds of new varieties that have been developed and are widely use in states like California. In order to properly evaluate the risks and benefits of these varieties, which include constituents not found in NIDA's supply, it is essential that researchers have the same freedom to investigate them that legal users enjoy.
We believe the Attorney General's new policy is on the right track, but needs to be followed up with appropriate action by the DEA and other federal agencies, as well as by Congressional legislation.
Dale Gieringer, Director, Cal NORML
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