As rumors started spreading today that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was about to rescind the Cole Memorandum, the 2013 Department of Justice document that essentially told U.S. attorneys to stay away from marijuana businesses operating legally in states that had legalized marijuana, Senator Cory Gardner quickly took aim...essentially accusing Sessions of lying to him during confirmation hearings, and vowing to hold up future Justice appointments.
"This reported action directly contradicts what Attorney General Sessions told me prior to his confirmation. With no prior notice to Congress, the Justice Department has trampled on the will of the voters in CO and other states," the Colorado Republican tweeted. The Colorado Republican followed with this: "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."
Gardner also issued a statement: “Reports that the Justice Department will rescind their current policy on legal marijuana enforcement are extremely alarming," he said. "Before I voted to confirm Attorney General Sessions, he assured me that marijuana would not be a priority for this Administration. Today’s action directly contradicts what I was told, and 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. In 2016, President Trump said marijuana legalization should be left up to the states, and I agree.”
And then, after Sessions did issue the anticipated memo, Gardner rose and made a rousing statement on the Senate floor.
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It's been a busy day for Gardner. Early this morning, he was on NPR with Steve Inskeep, talking about his role as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and dancing around questions about some of Donald Trump's recent actions. Although the issue of marijuana did not come up, Gardner still distanced himself from some of the president's most controversial stances, noting that his goal is to "focus on policies that will help the American people."
Gardner was not the only elected official to complain that Sessions's new policy goes against the will of Coloradans. Senator Michael Bennet weighed in, as did representatives Diana DeGette, Jared Polis, Mike Coffman, Ed Perlmutter and Scott Tipton, who name-checked Gardner in his response.
“The announcement by the Department of Justice is a drastic departure from the attorney general’s previous commitment to Senator Cory Gardner during the confirmation process that he would uphold the Obama Administration’s treatment of marijuana enforcement and President Trump’s comments that he would leave it to the states," Tipton said. "The people of Colorado voted to legalize marijuana in the state, and I am committed to defending the will of Coloradans.”