Murkowski Seeks Marijuana Law Clarity for Alaskans

‘People in my state are worried about the inconsistency between the state marijuana laws and the federal policy’

Today U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) pressed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in a Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the inconsistencies between state marijuana laws and the federal policy.

As Alaska is one of the states regulating the broader sale and use of marijuana in the same way as alcohol, Murkowski questioned Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein on how the federal government is preempting state policy regarding marijuana use and possible policy changes in the future regarding conflicting interests between state and federal governments with concerning marijuana. The federal government has been slow to give marijuana businesses access to the banking system and recently the US Postal Inspection Service has suggested that marijuana tax payments sent to the Alaska Department of Revenue are subject seizure. The Department of Justice has also proposed eliminating the current appropriations rider prohibiting federal interference with medical marijuana laws.

“So, I am concerned, and I’m speaking for a lot of people in my state who are worried about the inconsistency between the state marijuana laws as well as the federal policy. The Department of Justice has not taken the position thus far that state marijuana laws are completely preempted by the Controlled Substances Act – I don’t know if you are headed in that direction – the Cole Memorandum suggests deference to strong state laws but we’re not seeing the federal government doing much to ensure that those strong state laws are enforceable. So, the bigger question is, where are we heading with marijuana?” 

CJS Approps Marijuana

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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein acknowledged the conflict between federal and state laws and sympathized that it’s a difficult situation.

“And so I can assure you that’s going to be a high priority for me as the new US attorneys come onboard to talk with them about how to deal with that challenge in the states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana whether it be for recreation or medical use, but we are still in the Department of Justice - as AG Lynch actually mentioned in her confirmation hearing January 15 and she explained that we are responsible for enforcing the law.  It’s illegal and that is the federal policy with regards to marijuana.”

Senator Murkowski is joining with other Senators in legislation to require that the federal government respect state marijuana laws. The legislation is expected to be introduced later this week.