Americans are sick of the current federal stance on marijuana and increasingly favor decriminalization and legalization. But that shouldn’t mean that there should be a major shift in federal pot policy, according to Drug Enforcement Administration deputy director Thomas Harrigan.
Harrigan told a House subcommittee dubbed “Mixed Signals: The administrations stance on marijuana” this week that science should trump public opinion and that states should be wary of changing their laws. He said that the country “can’t abandon science and fact in favor of public opinion.”
Colorado U.S. Attorney John Walsh also spoke at the hearing, though he seemed to concede to the fact that Colorado’s law changes weren’t going anywhere any time soon. Instead, he told the panel that his office plans to work with local law enforcement to ensure pot is staying out of the hands of minors and that illegal drug money isn’t coming into (or going out of) the industry.
“With our collective effort – and only with our collective effort – we can succeed in implementing effective marijuana regulatory efforts in practice and on the ground,” Walsh said before the committee. He also added that the state law changes really haven’t done much to alter his office’s goals: they still are going after the large criminal organizations. That’s not entirely true, however, as Walsh’s office could easily raise criminal charges against any of the state-legal dispensaries operating in broad daylight if the mood struck him.
The committee, headed by Florida Republican Rep. John Mica was called to address what seems to be a growing divide between politicians looking to relax marijuana policies and the continuation of a failed drug war that the DEA and some federal prosecutors want to continue. Mica said the country is “”in a state of conflict and chaos right now” and hopes his committee can shed some light on it.
So far it doesn’t seem to be working. If anything, it’s merely highlighting the issue. Dan Riffle, lobbyist for the Marijuana Policy Project said the tone of Walsh was much less conservative than Harrigan – who at one point seemed to be in denial that cannabis is a far safer substance to use than drugs like heroin.