President Donald Trump told Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R) recently that the lawmaker has no reason to be concerned about a memo from Attorney General Jeff Sessions that threatened to crack down on states that had legalized marijuana. Gardner vowed to block all Department of Justice nominations until an acceptable outcome was reached.
Trump and Sessions have increasingly been at odds over several issues. On Feb. 28, Trump tweeted that Sessions's handling of a probe into potential FISA court abuses was "disgraceful." He has also repeatedly criticized Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. In July, Trump told the New York Times, “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.”
What does the Cole memo say?
While some states have legalized recreational use of marijuana, it is still illegal on a federal level.
However, the “Cole memo,” issued by the Department of Justice in 2013, had discouraged prosecutors from enforcing these laws, except in certain instances where “state enforcement efforts are not sufficiently robust to protect against” crimes including the sale of marijuana to minors, or revenue from marijuana sales going to cartels or gangs.
In all other instances, the memo states:
The Department’s guidance in this memorandum rests on its expectation that states and local governments have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that will address the threat those state laws could pose to public safety, public health, and other law enforcement interests.
Colorado legalized marijuana usage in 2014, after the Cole memo took effect.
What happened this year?
In January, Sessions signed a memo that threatened to overturn the Cole memo. Gardner said that Sessions had previously assured him that he would not attempt to override state marijuana laws.
At the time, Gardner told Yahoo News that he was “prepared to hold every Justice Department nominee until Jeff Sessions lives up to what he told me, lives up to his commitment.”
On Wednesday, Trump told Gardner in a phone call that the federal government would not target Colorado’s marijuana industry.
On Friday, 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 said that “since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states’ rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana.” Gardner announced that because of this, he would lift his remaining holds on DOJ nominees.
Gardner also said that the Senate is working on legislation that would make the Cole memo a law instead of just a guideline.
“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.