The federal government's interest in legal cannabis shifted on January 4, 2018, when United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded years of federal pot protections. That move, however, ignited a new sense of urgency for senators and representatives who represent states that have legalized the plant. And Congressman Jared Polis has been one of the loudest.
On Thursday, January 25, the Colorado representative and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts co-authored a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to protect state cannabis rights in the wake of Sessions's rescission of the Cole Memorandum, a 2013 policy that offered protection from federal prosecution for the cultivation, distribution and possession of pot in states where it is legal. A bipartisan group of 54 senators and representatives signed the letter, including Colorado representatives Ed Perlmutter and Diana DeGette.
In the letter, Polis and Warren say that Sessions has upended "the careful balance struck between the federal and state governments on marijuana enforcement," and predict a chilling effect on economic growth in states that have legalized medical and recreational cannabis. They end by calling out Trump for remarks he made about state-legalized cannabis during his presidential campaign:
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As a candidate, you stated: "I really believe we should leave [marijuana] up to the states" and that "it's got to be a state decision." We trust that you still hold this belief, and we request that you urge the Attorney General to reinstate the Cole Memorandum. This step would create a pathway to a more comprehensive marijuana policy that respects state interests and prerogatives. On behalf of the communities we represent, we hope you appreciate the critical nature of this issue and take immediate action.
Polis issued a statement along with the letter. “It is absurd that Attorney General Sessions has broken Trump’s campaign promise and is now waging war on legal marijuana and states’ rights," he says. "The growing Colorado and American economy is in jeopardy with the news that the Attorney General will go after states that have decided to regulate marijuana. The Trump Administration needs to back off and allow marijuana to be treated like alcohol under the law."
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The new Sessions Memorandum, which gives federal prosecutors the go-ahead to prosecute cannabis businesses and consumers if they so choose, has worried both pot industry members and the politicians who represent them. On January 12, Robert Troyer, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado, told a group of Colorado lawmakers that the Sessions Memorandum would not change the way federal prosecutors in Colorado approach cannabis.
Still, Polis is not the only Colorado politician to push back against Sessions. Senator Cory Gardner criticized the AG's actions from the floor of the Senate, and all the other members of Colorado's congressional delegation have weighed in. On January 24, Congress agreed to a federal funding bill that reinstated the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, a provision that blocks the United States Department of Justice from using federal funds to persecute compliant medical marijuana businesses and patients...at least through February 8, 2018.
Read the full letter below: