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Sen. Leahy: Sequester should halt federal marijuana raids

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The Obama Justice Department is still trying to figure out how to handle the legalization of marijuana possession in Colorado and Washington state, but one senator on Wednesday said that in an era of stretched budgets, the feds should back off.

“I would suggest there are more serious things than minor possession of marijuana,” Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Judiciary Committee chairman, told Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

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Minutes earlier, Mr. Holder had warned that the budget sequesters are forcing him to cut more than $1 billion from his department’s operations and said that could hurt national security.

Mr. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, said that’s all the more reason to not continue targeting marijuana users.

Mr. Holder is trying to figure out how the federal government, which still considers marijuana a major illegal drug, will deal with pot users in states where it’s been legalized. He said he expects to have a policy soon.

A March 4 letter from a number of former top federal drug enforcement officials to Mr. Leahy and Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the committee’s ranking Republican member, urged lawmakers to press Mr. Holder not to weaken federal law on the matter and to continue enforcing the Controlled Substances Act.

“Regular use of marijuana compromises the ability to learn and to remember information by impairing the ability to focus, sustain, and shift attention,” reads the letter, signed by nine former administrators of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as well as many anti-drug groups. “Sound drug policy must be rooted in evidence-based science, not driven by special-interest groups who are looking to profit at the expense of our nation’s public health and safety.”

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