Holder Invited to Discuss Federal Marijuana Laws

As tensions amplify about where state and federal laws intersect, Attorney General Eric Holder has been invited to a special hearing next month to resolve whether or not pro-marijuana states can be charged with breaking federal anti-marijuana legislation.

Legally, the Constitution doesn't allow state law to supersede an individual's constitutional rights. Because federal law is built upon the Constitution, when conflict occurs between federal and state laws, the federal law automatically "wins." So, when you have Colorado and Washington legalizing marijuana possession and use (when it's illegal in the rest of America), you wind up with an inherent tension.

What is legal according to state law will remain legal in that state unless challenged. But if an action legal in the state but illegal in the country does go to court, federal law will win. For example, 20 states across America allow some sort of marijuana consumption. Federal law prohibits it. And in those states, police officials want to be extra sure that they're not going to be prosecuted (and then convicted) for allowing people to, um, get high.

The Obama administration hasn't yet confirmed that this won't happen. Pat Leahy, the Senate's judicial committee's chairman, has decided it's time to sort this out once and for all. If Holder agrees to testify at a special hearing Sept. 10, as Leahy has invited him to do, Holder will be forced to reach a conclusion on the matter.

Said Leahy:

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. I believe that these state laws should be respected. At a minimum, there should be guidance about enforcement from the federal government.

Several Democrats have recommended that marijuana be decriminalized at federal level, though President Obama (cough, ex-smoker, cough) has remained firm on his vehemently anti-marijuana stance.