By Benjie Cooper
YouTube: Lucid’s Vlog
United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions stirred up a nationwide uproar right at the start of 2018 when he rescinded the Cole Memo, which had helped ease federal interference in legal cannabis states since 2014. The document did not offer any real legal protection for states, but it helped take some of the Justice Department’s focus away from marijuana by instructing U.S. Attorneys to use their best discretion when deciding which cases to prosecute.
On January 4, Sessions issued a memorandum of his own which trumpeted a “return to the rule of law and the rescission of previous guidance documents.”
Sessions’ memo-swapping maneuver, though sincerely executed, did not have the effect that the Attorney General was apparently expecting. Instead of prompting the start of a new era of cannabis prohibition, the new set of instructions was largely met with opposition and outrage.
Marijuana bills from 2017 gained new sponsors, and legislators worked on new measures to help end the ongoing decades of cannabis prohibition in the U.S. after Sessions released his memo.
Incensed by the AG’s bold move, Senator Cory Gardner [R-CO] promised to block all nominees for the Justice Department, a commitment to which he’s since held.
Now, in addition to the push-back he’s received from around the country and in Congress, Sessions’ crusade against cannabis is facing a new roadblock that is poised to stop the pointless war before it even gets started.
“Prior to his confirmation, then-Senator Sessions told me there would be no plans to reverse the Cole memorandum,” said Gardner in a Senate meeting in January. “One tweet later, one policy later, a complete reversal of what many of us on the Hill were told before the confirmation, what we had continued to believe the last year. And without any notification, conversation, or dialogue with Congress [the policy was] completely reversed.”
On Friday, April 13, Gardner said that in a conversation he had Wednesday with Donald Trump, the president guaranteed him that the rescission of the Cole Memo would not affect legal marijuana in the state of Colorado. In return, Gardner promised to release his hold on remaining DOJ nominations.
The senator had previously lifted his hold on some nominees after having productive talks with the DOJ.
“Late Wednesday, I received a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice’s rescission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado’s legal marijuana industry,” said Gardner in a statement. “Furthermore, President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”
“We’re always consulting Congress about issues, including states rights, of which the president is a firm believer,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders in a press briefing Friday. “And the statement that the senator put out earlier today is accurate.”
When asked about marijuana and states’ rights, Trump has traditionally indicated that he believes they should be able to regulate the issue on their own without federal interference. It’s a topic that has allegedly caused some head-butting between the president and his attorney general.
“Sessions and Trump have been heard arguing in the halls on several occasions, with Sessions enraged that Trump wants to ‘ignore federal law’ when it comes to marijuana,” an anonymous source told The Joint Blog earlier this year. “Trump thinks it’s bad politics. He wants the feds to look the other way.”
Gardner is currently helping construct a measure to prevent federal interference in states that wish to legalize marijuana.
“My colleagues and I are continuing to work diligently on a bipartisan legislative solution that can pass Congress and head to the President’s desk to deliver on his campaign position,” he said in the statement released on Friday.
Gardner is confident the bill will get enough support from both Democrats and Republicans to pass the GOP-controlled Congress and make it to the President’s desk for his signature.