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GOP senator says Sessions ‘went back on his word’ on pot policy, threatens to block DOJ nominees

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) listens to testimony in May 2016 during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Gardner accused Attorney General Jeff Sessions of going back on his word Thursday about the marijuana policy. (2016 file photo/Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) threatened to block President Donald Trump's nominations to the Department of Justice if Attorney General Jeff Sessions follows through on plans to rescind a DOJ policy that allows states legal marijuana without federal intervention.

What happened?

The Associated Press reported Thursday that Sessions will overturn a 2013 legal memorandum issued by the Justice Department known as the “Cole memo.” According to CNN, the policy allowed federal prosecutors in states in which the drug had been legalized for recreational or medical use to take a “hands-off approach” as long as the state’s laws did not threaten other federal priorities, including preventing the distribution of the marijuana to minors or preventing drugged driving.

The policy created a conflict in some circumstances between federal and state law, as the use of marijuana is still illegal under federal law.

It was not immediately clear what, if any, policy Sessions would issue in place of the Cole memo.

How did Gardner respond?

Gardner’s home state of Colorado permits the use of recreational marijuana. He criticized Sessions after the report came to light, writing in a tweet that policies about the drug “must be left up to the states.”

Gardner added that Sessions' move “directly contradicts” what he said prior to his confirmation as attorney general.

Gardner said he will “take all steps necessary,” including holding up Justice Department nominees, until Sessions “lives up to the commitment he made to me prior to his confirmation.”

In an interview with Yahoo News on Thursday, Gardner reiterated his tweets, saying, “I’m prepared to hold every Justice Department nominee until Jeff Sessions lives up to what he told me, lives up to his commitment,” Gardner said, saying he would filibuster Justice Department nominees.

“Jeff Sessions told me this wouldn’t be a priority, Jeff Sessions told me the policy would not be reversed, and today, Jeff Sessions went back on his word,” Gardner said.

The senator said his former colleague made the promise in “a call specifically set up because I would not release my vote [to confirm Sessions as attorney general] until I got an answer” on the issue.

“He said ‘this is just not something that President Trump is focused on.’ And apparently, it’s not just a focus, it’s a primary initiative of the new year,” Gardner said of Sessions answer on the pot question.

Gardner argued that the reversal of the policy would create “uncertainty” and “instability” in Colorado, where legalized marijuana makes up a $2 billion industry.

He also argued that Trump said he would leave the issue to the states.

“President Trump was right, why does Jeff Sessions think he was wrong?” Gardner asked.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice did not immediately respond to TheBlaze’s request for comment about Gardner’s remarks.

Some observers, such as Hot Air's Ed Morrissey‏, argued that members of Congress should amend or repeal laws they want to be changed, rather than block their enforcement.

Gardner's office did not immediately return TheBlaze's request for comment asking if he will take legislative action to change federal law regarding marijuana use.

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