Now that Colorado and Washington have legalized possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) wants to know how the Obama administration will enforce federal laws prohibiting pot.
On Thursday, Leahy called for a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, to discuss the discrepancy.
"Federal policy and now state policies are in conflict and so that raises the question of how that conflict will be resolved," says spokesman David Carle.
Leahy's office also released a letter the senator sent last week to Office of National Drug Control Policy director Gill Kerlikowske seeking clarity on the White House's position.
"What assurances can and will the administration give to state officials involved in the licensing of marijuana retailers that they will not face federal criminal penalties for carrying out duties assigned to them under state law?" Leahy asks Kerlikowske in the letter.
Leahy's letter hints that the senator could be open to changing federal law to legalize small amounts of marijuana — at least in Colorado and Washington.
"Legislative options exist to resolve the differences between federal and state law in this area and end the uncertainty that residents of Colorado and Washington now face," he writes. "One option would be to amend the Federal Controlled Substances Act to allow possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, at least in jurisdictions where it is legal under state law."
But asked Thursday whether Leahy would support such an amendment, Carle demurred.
"He has not taken a view on decriminalization and does not weigh in on state matters," Carle said.