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U.S. Senators Held a Hearing that the Drug Policy Alliance Called Out as a Sham


When it comes to marijuana reform at a federal level, the government seems to be decidedly divided. Those who are gung-ho ready to support drug policy reform, or at least support medical marijuana, are firm in their stance; as are those who oppose legalization or reform on any level, believing it would do great harm (though no harm has come of it yet).

A shining example of anti-legalization supporters trying to spread reefer lies like madness was presented this week as a couple of U.S. Senators called for a hearing of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control. The hearing was titled “Is the Department of Justice Adequately Protecting the Public from Impact of State Recreational Marijuana?”

The Senators behind the hearing are Charles Grassley and Dianne Feinstein, who are both known for having an opposition to marijuana legalization. At the hearing there was testimony from four individuals – three of which were there to testify against the idea of marijuana legalization.

Those speaking included Benjamin Wagner, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California who is known for prosecuting low-level marijuana offences; Doug Peterson, the Nebraska attorney who filed the lawsuit against Colorado’s Amendment 64 that the Supreme Court rejected just recently; Kathryn Wells, a Colorado pediatrician who also participates on the advisory board of anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana; and finally a representative of the Government Accountability Office, who spoke more as a report of how the federal government is responding to state level legalization.

“These hearings are a one-sided sham with the deck stacked with witnesses who have a track record of vehemently opposing marijuana legalization,” said Michael Collins, Deputy Director at Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “An honest evaluation of marijuana legalization would include the undeniable benefits of legalization like the massive drop in marijuana arrests, the billions in taxes, and the transition from an underground market to a regulated one. A more even-handed hearing would also address the destructive harms of marijuana prohibition.”

Just one look at the lineup for this hearing and the Drug Policy Alliance was calling them out on their shenanigans. They released an article on Tuesday in which they call the hearing both a sham and a prohibitionist’s party – and it’s not an unfair accusation to make at all. These testimonies only reflect a small portion of what could happen – and none of what has actually happened since marijuana legalization began with California 20 years ago.

“Invites to policymakers and experts who have worked in support of marijuana reform must have been lost in the mail,” said Collins.

Seeing things like this meeting being held is troubling – especially while we’re waiting on the CARERS Act to pass, which if it becomes law, would be a game changer for the way marijuana is both looked at from a federal and a public standpoint. That’s also something these Senators and these anti-legalization groups are worried about – once the federal government reschedules marijuana they are admitting they were wrong, and also that their attempt to eradicate the plant by prohibition failed.