Politicians from states where marijuana sales are legal released statements and took to Twitter Thursday morning to express their dismay at a report that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will rescind the Cole Memo.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper issued a statement:
“Thirty states comprising more than two thirds of the American people have legalized marijuana in some form. The Cole memo got it right and was foundational in guiding states’ efforts to regulate the production and distribution of marijuana. Colorado has created a comprehensive regulatory system committed to supporting the will of our voters. We constantly evaluate and seek to strengthen our approach to regulation and enforcement. Our focus will continue to be the public health and public safety of our citizens. We are expanding efforts to eliminate the black market and keep marijuana out of the hands of minors and criminals. Today’s decision does not alter the strength of our resolve in those areas, nor does it change my constitutional responsibilities.”
Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner posted a Tweet blasting Sessions’ decision:
“This reported action directly contradicts what Attorney General Sessions told me prior to his confirmation,” he posted on Twitter. “With no prior notice to Congress, the Justice Department has trampled on the will of the voters in CO and other states. (President Donald Trump) had it right. This must be left up to the states.”
I am prepared to take all steps necessary, including holding DOJ nominees, until the Attorney General lives up to the commitment he made to me prior to his confirmation.
— Cory Gardner (@SenCoryGardner) January 4, 2018
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet also went to Twitter to react:
In rescinding the Cole memo, the Attorney General failed to listen to Colorado, and will create unnecessary chaos and confusion. https://t.co/vSQuhlkv4D
— Michael F. Bennet (@SenBennetCO) January 4, 2018
Colorado congresswoman Diana DeGette, Chief Deputy Whip, said in a statement:
“This step could drag us back to the days of raids on legal dispensaries and people living in fear being jailed for using the medical marijuana they need. It could create a chilling effect on an industry that employs thousands of people in Colorado alone, where sales now top $1 billion per year. The federal government shouldn’t take punitive steps that undermine the will of our citizens expressed at the state level.”
Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter said in his statement that “Congress needs to take matters into its own hands”:
“Today’s decision by Attorney General Sessions rolls back the progress we’ve made to balance the laws of Colorado with the priorities of federal law enforcement. The Cole memo provided assurances to states like Colorado with marijuana use and a strict regulatory structure in place by allowing these states to proceed according to the will of their voters. While it did not relieve all uncertainty, especially for financial institutions, it was a step forward. Today’s announcement creates even greater uncertainty in the industry and shows a lack of respect for states’ rights.
“Congress needs to take matters into its own hands. I have been urging Congress to act on this issue since 2013, and I once again call on my colleagues to act immediately starting with passing my SAFE Banking Act which allows legitimate marijuana businesses access to banking services. Fixing the banking system will ensure a strong regulated environment for marijuana sales and continue to curtail the black market. We’ve come too far to backtrack on this issue now. It’s time to find a real solution that will keep our communities safe and respect the will of voters in the majority of states in our country.”
Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman said “Sessions needs to read the Commerce Clause… of the U.S. Constitution”:
— Rep. Mike Coffman (@RepMikeCoffman) January 4, 2018
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said Denver is an “international model for how to do it right”:
Denver residents voted overwhelmingly for this and we’ve become an international model for how to do it right. Another example that this admin doesn’t listen, doesn’t pay attention, doesn’t get it. https://t.co/YbCgRktvVt @cannabist @CoryGardner @SenBennetCO @RepDianaDeGette
— Michael B. Hancock (@MayorHancock) January 4, 2018
The Colorado State Democrats tweeted:
The marijuana industry supports hundreds of small businesses across our state.
Since legalization, marijuana has generated $617,767,334 in tax revenue. Instead of going to drug cartels, that money helps fund our schools and addiction treatment programs for more dangerous drugs.
— Colorado Senate Dems (@COSenDem) January 4, 2018
Sal Pace, Pueblo County Commissioner and former Colorado House Democratic Leader issued a statement:
“Any move by the DOJ to reverse cannabis legalization enacted by citizens across the country will be opposed vigorously by a bipartisan national coalition of local elected officials. A reversal of the sovereign voice of the American public is an assault on the intellect of Americans, an assault on the fundamental tenants of democracy, and an attack on the Constitutional guarantee of states’ rights. That is why I am bringing together local elected officials across the country to demand that Congress act immediately to protect the voice of their constituents and allow states to determine their own fate. The American public has spoken loud and clear that states should have the right to determine their own fate on cannabis.
The same 165,000 residents who elected me, voted for Donald Trump and voted in favor of the legalization of marijuana. The citizens from this Trump backing county do not want this economic engine shut down, sending thousands of people to the unemployment line and costing our County government millions in tax revenues.”
Oregon Sen. Earl Blumenauer, co-sponsor of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment that protects medical marijuana states released a statement saying:
“This is outrageous. Going against the majority of Americans–including a majority of Republican voters–who want the federal government to stay out of the way is perhaps one of the stupidest decisions the Attorney General has made. One wonders if Trump was consulted–it is Jeff Sessions after all–because this would violate his campaign promise not to interfere with state marijuana laws. It’s time for anyone who cares about this issue to mobilize and push back strongly against this decision.”
There is broad recognition that the War on Drugs is an abject failure. After over $1T spent, the problem is worse than when we started. Its tragic effects felt in every US community & in countries around the globe. It’s past time we change our approach.https://t.co/Ey6Jh5EJwg
— Earl Blumenauer (@repblumenauer) January 3, 2018
Bluemenauer also questioned whether Sessions had talked with Trump about the policy change:
One wonders if Trump was consulted—it is Jeff Sessions after all—because this would violate his campaign promise not to interfere with state marijuana laws. It’s time for ANYONE who cares about this issue to mobilize and push back strongly against this decision. https://t.co/S0neITlP5q
— Earl Blumenauer (@repblumenauer) January 4, 2018
Attorney General Sessions, have you talked to your boss?
— Earl Blumenauer (@repblumenauer) January 4, 2018
“Trump promised to let states set their own marijuana policies. Now he’s breaking that promise so Jeff Sessions can pursue his extremist anti-marijuana crusade. Once again the Trump administration is doubling down on protecting states’ rights only when they believe the state is right. Opening the door to go after legal marijuana businesses ignores the will of the majority of Americans and marks yet another socially unjust and economically backward scheme from this administration. Any budget deal Congress considers in the coming days must build on current law to prevent the federal government from intruding in state-legal, voter-supported decisions.”
Trump promised to let states set marijuana policies. Now he’s breaking that promise so Jeff Sessions can pursue his extremist anti-marijuana crusade. https://t.co/EhxfVdC3so
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) January 4, 2018
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued a statement:
“Reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions will roll back federal marijuana policy are deeply concerning and disruptive to our state’s economy. Over 19,000 jobs have been created by the market Oregon worked carefully to build in good faith and in accordance with the Cole Memorandum. The federal government must keep its promise to states that relied on its guidance.
“States are the laboratories of democracy, where progressive policies are developed and implemented for the benefit of their people. Voters in Oregon were clear when they chose for Oregon to legalize the sale of marijuana and the federal government should not stand in the way of the will of Oregonians.
“My staff and state agencies are working to evaluate reports of the Attorney General’s decision and will fight to continue Oregon’s commitment to a safe and prosperous recreational marijuana market.”
California Sen. Kamala Harris — also the state’s former attorney general — weighed in:
Instead of going after drug cartels, and violent crime, and major traffickers, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is going after recreational marijuana users. That’s not being smart on crime.https://t.co/BNlcxbTT4v
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) January 4, 2018
Jeff Sessions has destructively doubled down on the failed, costly, and racially discriminatory war on drugs, ignoring facts and logic, and trampling on the will of CA voters.
Have no doubt — CA will pursue all options to protect our reforms and rights. https://t.co/0EuSp5GJ2z
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) January 4, 2018
He then followed up with a full statement in which he said in part, “[Sessions’] position defies facts and logic, threatens the promise of a safe, stable, and legal regulatory framework being pursued by twenty-nine different states, and continues the Trump Administration’s cynical war on America’s largest state — and it’s people and progress …”
My full statement on Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ harmful and destructive attempt to revive the failed war on drugs.
Calling on our federal leaders to move quickly to protect states’ rights from the harmful effects of this ideological temper tantrum by Sessions. pic.twitter.com/96xtRx6OYE
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) January 4, 2018
California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, co-sponsor of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment that protects medical marijuana states released a statement saying:
“The attorney general of the United States has just delivered an extravagant holiday gift to the drug cartels. By attacking the will of the American people, who overwhelmingly favor marijuana legalization, Jeff Sessions has shown a preference for allowing all commerce in marijuana to take place in the black market, which will inevitably bring the spike in violence he mistakenly attributes to marijuana itself. He is doing the bidding of an out-of-date law enforcement establishment that wants to wage a perpetual weed war and seize private citizens’ property in order to finance its backward ambitions.
“This is a profound misreading of the Constitution, which allows states, not the heavy-handed federal government, to determine such issues. How ironic that the attorney general has long championed states’ rights when it suits other parts of his agenda! More than that, by attacking the clear will of the American people, the attorney general contradicts President Trump’s campaign pledges to leave medical and recreational marijuana questions for the states to decide. By taking this benighted minority position, he actually places Republicans’ electoral fortunes in jeopardy.”
California Rep. Ted Lieu, whose state just started selling legal recreational marijuana Monday:
Dear Attorney General Jeff Sessions and @TheJusticeDept: Let me give you a list of things more important for federal prosecutors and federal law enforcement to pursue other than marijuana:
1. Basically anything. https://t.co/ctyJui7g4c
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) January 4, 2018
AG Jeff Sessions apparently wants to take America back to the 1920s. Prohibition didn’t work then and it will not work now. Congress needs to pass sensible laws to prevent a monumental waste of precious federal resources chasing Americans who use #cannabis. #thursdaythoughts https://t.co/GP3qPyKIve
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) January 4, 2018
Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, a California representative, weighed in:
Attorney General Sessions, your unjust war against Americans who legally use #marijuana is shameful & insults the democratic processes that played out in states across the country.
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) January 4, 2018
California Rep. Ro Khanna called prosecuting marijuana a “civil rights issue“:
Let’s be clear: Trump’s decision to prosecute marijuana use will hurt Black and Latino youth the most. Privileged kids who use these drugs in private schools rarely get prosecuted. This is a civil rights issue. It’s not only bad policy. It’s morally wrong. https://t.co/REIekeWCeY
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) January 4, 2018
Washington State’s Attorney General’s office pointed to AG Bob Ferguson and Governor Jay Inslee’s letter to Jeff Sessions in August, correcting what they perceived as misinformation Sessions was operating under:
AG Ferguson response on reported action by US AG Jeff Sessions on federal marijuana policy. Read AG Ferguson and @GovInslee‘s letter to Sessions correcting Sessions’ bad information on WA marijuana law here: https://t.co/z1DY0fbnsE pic.twitter.com/i68zhtHc9A
— WA Attorney General (@AGOWA) January 4, 2018
Nevada Rep. Dina Titus reacted first on Twitter:
I will fight for businesses that are legally operating in states, contributing to tax bases, & creating jobs. We don’t need a crackdown. We need to protect states’ rights, respect the voice of voters, and pass laws to prevent this from happening again. https://t.co/0XBLrgf0iM
— Dina Titus (@repdinatitus) January 4, 2018
The founding member of the House Cannabis Caucus. ” later followed up with a full statement:
“This latest move from Attorney General Sessions and the Trump Administration is a direct attack on the State of Nevada, sovereign tribal governments, and the rights of people in states, tribes, and territories all across the United States. The decision to rescind the Cole and Wilkinson memos undermines Nevada’s $622 million dollar industry, threatens nearly $1 billion in new investments, and jeopardizes thousands of new jobs and more than $60 million dollars in tax revenue for the State. It also targets veterans using medical marijuana to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and children with epilepsy, subjecting them to possible federal prosecution for seeking legal treatments for their ailments. Congress must immediately respond by passing permanent protections like the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act (H.R. 975 Rohrabacher-Blumenauer-Titus).”
Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who has filed legislation to reschedule cannabis as a Schedule III substance, weighed in with a statement:
Today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department would no longer follow the guidance of the Cole Memorandum — a long-established, common-sense guideline instructing the federal government to crack down on dangerous drug crimes, rather than harmless medical marijuana patients. This disappointing and cruel decision is a huge step backward for states’ rights, for common-sense reform, and for the American people.
I have seen children, in my district and nationwide, who have been helped by medical marijuana when all other treatments have failed. Has AG Sessions seen a child with juvenile epilepsy? Has he seen a child have a seizure? I have. I’ve seen tears stream down a mother’s face as she cradled her daughter in her arms, watching her little girl’s eyes roll back in her head, her skin turning blue from lack of oxygen. I’ve also seen this same little girl smiling and laughing, playing sports and having friends — her epilepsy made manageable by medical marijuana.
Attorney General Sessions thinks she’s a felon. I think she’s a hero.
Not only does AG Sessions’ decision hurt millions of patients and families nationwide, it is out of step with the will of the American people — over 90% of whom support doctor-prescribed medical marijuana. It even flies in the face of President Trump, who expressed his support for medical marijuana and state-level decision-making during his campaign. For AG Sessions to disregard the Cole Memorandum is heartless and cold, and shows his desire to pursue an antiquated, disproven dogma instead of the will of the American people. He should focus his energies on prosecuting criminals, not patients.
The Mayor of Tallahassee and candidate for governor of Florida, Andrew Gillum said Sessions’ goal is to “put more young people & (sic) people of color behind bars for using a plant.”
Sessions is dangerously deluded about our drug policy. This isn’t rooted in science or justice – though that’s little surprise since he has compared marijuana to heroin. While people of every walk of life smoke marijuana, the criminal penalties for doing so are far less equal.
— Andrew Gillum (@AndrewGillum) January 4, 2018
This is an absurd policy decision not based on science. Jeff Sessions has made his goal crystal clear: put more young people & people of color behind bars for using a plant. https://t.co/wDqP7CMmva
— Andrew Gillum (@AndrewGillum) January 4, 2018
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who at congressional hearings has pressed the Department of Justice on its stance on marijuana:
— Sen. Lisa Murkowski (@lisamurkowski) January 4, 2018
“This reckless action by the DOJ disrupts the ability of states to enforce their own drug policies and puts our public health and safety at risk,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren in a statement.
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who opposed the 2016 ballot question that legalized recreational marijuana, indicated he remained committed to implementing the state law and opposed the move by Sessions. “The administration believes this is the wrong decision and will review any potential impacts from any policy changes by the local U.S. attorney’s office,” Baker spokesman Brendan Moss said.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who introduced the Marijuana Justice Act to Congress in August:
We must stop Jeff Sessions’ backwards actions. There is now great urgency to pass the Marijuana Justice Act to legalize marijuana on the federal level.
— Sen. Cory Booker (@SenBooker) January 4, 2018
Sessions’ determination to revive the failed War on Drugs is fiscally wasteful, morally bankrupt, unjust—and won’t make us safer. This backwards policy is wrong for America, and on the wrong side of history. https://t.co/KgoEtz3MrK
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) January 4, 2018
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont released a statement:
“No, Attorney General Sessions. Marijuana is not the same as heroin. No one who has seriously studied the issue believes that marijuana should be classified as a Schedule 1 drug beside killer drugs like heroin. Quite the contrary. We should allow states the right to move toward the decriminalization of marijuana, not reverse the progress that has been made in recent years.”
New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand posted a video to her Facebook page:
She also released a written statement:
“Attorney General Sessions’s reported decision is a direct attack on patients. Parents should be able to give their sick kids the medicine they need without having to fear that they will be prosecuted. Veterans should be able to come home from combat and use the medicine they need without having to fear they will be prosecuted. This is about public health, and it’s about reforming our broken criminal justice system that throws too many minorities in prison for completely nonviolent offenses. I urge my colleagues to join me in fighting this shortsighted decision and supporting my broadly bipartisan bill, the CARERS Act, to keep the federal government out of the way when doctors and patients decide that medical marijuana is the best treatment for them.”
Brian Schatz from Hawaii hinted at action:
There is a growing bipartisan group of Senators that is not going to stand by while Jeff Sessions takes us back several generations on marijuana policy. More later.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) January 5, 2018
Catch up on all The Cannabist’s previous coverage of the Cole Memo