Federal and state attorneys general must take action to end marijuana standoff, promote public and mental health
FOR RELEASE May 2, 2013
STATEMENT TO THE PRESS BY:
Patrick J. Kennedy, on behalf of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (Project SAM)
Lead Sponsor of Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act (D)
Congressman Andy Harris, MD
Medical Doctor, U.S. Representative Andy Harris from Maryland’s 1st district (R)
(Washington, D.C.) – At a Congressional briefing held to capacity on April 26, 2012, former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI) was presented with 40,000 signatures from around the world urging the U.S. government to support drug prevention efforts and oppose legalization. These signatures were presented to the Office of Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD).
Since November, when Colorado passed an initiative to legalize marijuana, state and federal officials have been in a standoff. Clearly, states may not legalize marijuana production, sales, and use without violating federal law. And most importantly, doing so would not only violate the law, it would threaten safety and public health, especially mental health. Supporting marijuana legalization is completely inconsistent with supporting a robust mental health system.
Congressman Andy Harris, MD (R-MD) questioned Attorney General Eric Holder on April 18, 2013 during a Committee on Appropriations hearing about the discrepancy which has arisen between the new Colorado and Washington laws vis-à-vis the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) regarding recreational usage of marijuana. Congressman Harris addressed the possibility of the CSA preempting both state laws and urged the Department of Justice to enforce the CSA which would send a clear message to America’s youth that this drug is not safe.
“As a physician I understand the importance of making therapeutic pharmaceutical agents available to those who could benefit,” said Congressman Harris. “Efforts to isolate and identify components of marijuana that have therapeutic usefulness should be done expeditiously – but that shouldn’t mean widespread use of marijuana itself outside of validated clinical trials.”
Attorney General Eric Holder and White House Drug Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske have just placed Colorado state officials on notice that it is state officials’ responsibility to uphold federal law. At a National Press Club luncheon address on April 17, 2013, National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske said, “No state, no executive can nullify a statute that has been passed by Congress. . . . Let’s be clear: law enforcement officers take an oath of office to uphold federal law and they are going to continue to pursue drug traffickers and drug dealers.” http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/17/drug-czar-no-state-can-nullify-federal-marijuana-ban/ (emphasis added)
In the Appropriations Committee hearing on April 18, 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder said, “When it comes to these marijuana initiatives, I think among the kinds of things we will have to consider is the impact on children, along with factors such as violence connected to trafficking and organized crime.” And, he also said, “We are certainly going to enforce federal law.” http://seattletimes.com/html/politics/2020807855_apusholdermarijuana.html (emphasis added)
In his January 21, 2012 editorial (titled, “Despite state constitution, medical marijuana violates federal law) published in the Colorado Springs Gazette, [Mr.] Colorado Attorney General John Suthers concluded, “In a dispute on whether federal laws trump state laws under the Supremacy Clause, the U.S. Supreme Court has the final say.” The “law of the land,” according to Mr. Suthers, is Gonzales v. Raich, in which “the Supreme Court held that even when marijuana is grown, distributed and consumed within a single state, it does affect interstate commerce and is therefore subject to federal regulation.” http://www.gazette.com/articles/federal-132103-state-gazette.html (emphasis added)
Forcing the federal government to take action against Colorado, at the expense of both federal and state taxpayers, seems a waste of resources when the conclusion is inevitable. Attorney General John Suthers already has acknowledged the federal government’s right to enforce federal drug laws against Colorado. And, as Mr. Suthers correctly noted in his editorial, he took an oath of office to uphold the U.S. Constitution as well as the Colorado Constitution. Federal officials have now reminded him of that oath.
Colorado Attorney General Suthers needs to step up and do the right thing in the name of not only the U.S. Constitution, but also the public safety and well being of Coloradans. For those same reasons and for the benefit of all Americans, Attorney General Holder needs to make good on his promise to enforce federal law.