On behalf of CADCA’s 5,000 community coalitions across the country, we commend Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for holding the Drug Caucus hearing yesterday on “Is the Department of Justice Adequately Protecting the Public from the Impact of State Recreational Marijuana Legalization?”
Sen. Grassley, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the Caucus on International Narcotics Control, and Sen. Feinstein, Co-chairman of the Caucus on International Narcotics Control, called attention to the fact that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has not monitored developments in the states that legalized marijuana for recreational use or developed metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of its policies.
Sen. Feinstein noted at the hearing that accurate data on marijuana’s impact as outlined in a 2013 memorandum by then Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, “Guidance Regarding Marijuana Enforcement,” is critical to making informed decisions and is not currently available.
The memo announced federal priorities that it claimed would guide its enforcement going forward. These priorities include preventing marijuana from being distributed to minors, stopping the diversion of marijuana into states that haven’t legalized it, and preventing adverse public health effects from marijuana use. Furthermore, DOJ warned that if state efforts weren’t enough to protect the public, then the federal government might step up its enforcement or even challenge the state laws themselves. This put the responsibility on DOJ to monitor developments in these states, develop metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of its policy, and change course if developments warranted.
In addition, a recent report requested by the senators from the Government Accountability Office found that the DOJ also doesn’t have a documented plan to monitor the effects of state legalization on any of these priorities.
The senators also referred to statistics from “The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact” report produced by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), which found that while youth use decreased by four percent nationally, in Colorado, youth past-month use increased by 20 percent, making them No. 1 in the nation. These statistics underscore the critical need to assess the many consequences that come as a result of legalization.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), also in attendance at the hearing, stated “The prevention movement was so positive and led to its decline [drug use]. We can’t let the progress we have made slip away from us.”
CADCA fully supports Sen. Grassley’s assertion that the Administration should monitor developments in states that have legalized marijuana, develop metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of its policy and create a plan to monitor the effects of state legalization on the priorities outlined in the Cole memo. And it should use what it learns to develop a coherent enforcement approach that protects public health and safety, and is consistent with its obligation to take care that our laws are faithfully executed.
Strategizer 31 – “Guidelines for Advocacy: Changing Policies and Laws to Create Safer Environments for Youth”