Trump Changes Course On Legal Marijuana

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Trump Changes Course On Legal Marijuana

By Victoria Kim 04/17/18

A senator's vow to block DOJ appointments reportedly led to an unexpected reversal from the Trump administration.

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Donald Trump

Just months after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new effort to crack down on legal cannabis in the United States, the Trump administration has changed course, deciding to defend states’ rights to form their own cannabis policies instead.

The move came about after U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado, vowed to block Senate confirmation of appointments to the Department of Justice in protest of the attorney general’s decision to rescind the Cole Memo, an Obama-era policy that effectively left alone states that have legalized cannabis in some capacity.

In January, Sessions announced a “return to the rule of law” under his directive, with the intention to enforce the federal prohibition of cannabis in all 50 states.

By rescinding the Cole Memo, Sessions allowed federal prosecutors to return to “previously established prosecutorial principles that provide them all the necessary tools to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis and thwart violent crime across our country.”

Sessions said at the time, “The previous issuance of guidance undermines the rule of law and the ability of our local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement partners to carry out this mission.”

In response, Gardner said that Sessions’ directive “has trampled on the will of the voters,” and vowed to block DOJ appointments in protest. His state, Colorado, was among the first to legalize cannabis for adult use.

Now, Gardner is ending his protest, after the Trump administration assured him that his state will not be affected. “Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states’ rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana,” said Gardner in a Friday (April 13) statement. “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.”

By rejecting Jeff Sessions’ disregard for the right of Colorado and other states to form their own cannabis policies, per the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, President Trump promised Gardner “that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed the administration’s position. “We’re always consulting Congress about issues, including states’ rights, of which the president is a firm believer,” she said. “And the statement that the senator put out earlier today is accurate.”

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