Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner has agreed on a deal with President Trump that would end his boycott of the Department of Justice (DOJ) nomination process over US Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ directive to prosecute cannabis-related offenses federally.
Gardner responded to Sessions’ January memo that directed federal prosecutors to focus once again on enforcing federal cannabis laws — even in states that had legalized marijuana — by threatening block any DOJ nominations until the Trump administration assured him they would protect states’ rights to regulate cannabis.
“Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states’ rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana,” Gardner said. “Late Wednesday [April 11, 2018], 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.”
On the night of April 11, 2018, Trump and Gardner had a telephone conversation in which the president contradicted the Sessions memo, telling the senator from Colorado — where marijuana has been legalized for adult-use since 2014 — would not be subjected to a federal crackdown on cannabis.
White House to support marijuana reform legislation…
— Tom Angell 🌳📰 (@tomangell) April 13, 2018
Trump has been vague about his administration’s views on cannabis reform, though he has expressed some hard-line views on drug enforcement recently, making his recent announcement all the more surprising.
Though pure speculation, Trump may be looking for a public-relations boost while embroiled in the ongoing investigation by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential campaign to Trump’s benefit.
According to White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short, Trump “does respect Colorado’s right to decide for themselves how to best approach this issue.”
One of Gardner’s primary points of contention with Sessions’ decision to bring the hammer down on states with legal cannabis markets was his assurance during his confirmation hearings that he “would leave states that had legalized marijuana alone.”
“Clearly, we’ve expressed our frustration with the delay with a lot of our nominees and feel that too often, senators hijack a nominee for a policy solution,” Short added. “So we’re reluctant to reward that sort of behavior. But at the same time, we’re anxious to get our team at the Department of Justice.”
There has been a drastic change in stance recently among Washington fixtures that had previously been against cannabis reform.
Former House Speaker John Boehner, a staunch anti-legalization lawmaker, made the decision to change course on cannabis after he joined the board of directors of Acreage Holdings, a New York-based cultivator that operates in 11 states.
“I decided to get involved because of the struggles of our country’s veterans and the opioid epidemic, after learning how descheduling the drug can potentially help with both crises,” Boehner said.
h/t Tom Angell