Ending a stalemate with a prominent Senator, President Trump makes deal to protect states with legal cannabis. The Washington Post reported on Friday that the president had reached an agreement with Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado.
In January, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo, a policy enacted by the Obama administration that directed U.S. Attorneys not to interfere in states with legalized pot. Under the Cole Memo, individuals and companies complying with state cannabis laws could operate with little fear of federal prosecution.
But when Sessions scrapped that directive, he allowed individual prosecutors to decide on enforcement of federal marijuana laws. That created a sense of panic among the legal cannabis industry nationwide.
Colorado voters legalized cannabis for medicinal use in 2000 with the passage of Amendment 20. Later, in 2012, the state approved the recreational use of marijuana by adults. The regulated adult-use cannabis market began in Colorado in 2014.
Nationally, nine states and Washington, D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana. Medical marijuana is legal in 29 more states.
That move angered Gardner, who said it was contrary to assurances Trump made while running for office. Also, according to Gardner, Sessions had promised to respect states with legal pot during confirmation hearings for his post.
In retaliation, the Senator used his position to block about 20 nominees for positions in the Department of Justice (DOJ).
But in a phone call between the two politicians on Wednesday, they were able to come to an agreement. Trump told Gardner that despite Sessions’ announcement, legal pot businesses in Colorado will not be targeted by federal prosecutors.
“Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states’ rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana,” Gardner said. “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.”
Gardner also said the President had committed to changing federal law to give states the lead in cannabis regulation permanently. Consequently, the Senator will now allow DOJ nominations to proceed through the Senate.
“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. Because of these commitments, I have informed the Administration that I will be lifting my remaining holds on Department of Justice nominees.”
During an interview on Friday, White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said that the President “does respect Colorado’s right to decide for themselves how to best approach this issue.”
He also said that although the administration didn’t approve of Gardner’s tactics, they are happy the stalemate has ended.
“Clearly, we’ve expressed our frustration with the delay with a lot of our nominees and feel that too often, senators hijack a nominee for a policy solution. So we’re reluctant to reward that sort of behavior,” Short said. “But at the same time, we’re anxious to get our team at the Department of Justice.”
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