Trump, senator strike deal on legalized marijuana

Alicia Farmer
April 14, 2018

Mr. Gardner held up the nominees after Attorney-General Jeff Sessions rescinded an earlier Justice Department memo that shielded marijuana operations in states such as Colorado from enforcement of the federal ban on the drug.

Trump offered qualified support for legalization while on the presidential campaign trail, saying that medical marijuana "should happen" and that laws regarding recreational usage should be left in the hands of the states.

Nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational pot, although not all of them regulate and permit retail sales.

Maybe we shouldn't get too excited until there's an actual piece of legislation protecting marijuana states. Especially infuriating, from Gardner's perspective, was that Sessions had pledged during his confirmation process for attorney general that he would leave states that had legalized marijuana alone, according to the senator.

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Gardner didn't elaborate on what specific legislation Trump said he would support, although Congress is now considering several bills that would legalize cannabis at the national level. "I think that all of those things work together to protect public health and safety, but we have a provision now in our constitution, and we have statutes that carry this out, and we have regulations in our agencies". Attorney General Jeff Sessions instead directed USA attorneys to use prosecutorial discretion. But Gardner said Sessions had promised him he'd do nothing to interfere with Colorado's robust marijuana market. Cory Gardner announced Friday that he had struck a deal with the Department of Justice to keep guidelines outlined in the Cole Memorandum in place.

"Because of these commitments, I have informed the Administration that I will be lifting my remaining holds on Department of Justice nominees", Gardner continued in the statement.

Gardner held up about 20 Justice nominees, a significant number considering Senate Republicans and the White House have for months accused Democrats of slowing down consideration of other Trump picks. Replacements of any of those officials would require new nominations. Many traditional investors have shied away from pouring their capital into the industry over fears they'd be treated like drug traffickers, and a strong sign of support from Trump over Congressional action might provide the reassurance they're seeking. Thirty states and the District of Columbia have legalized some form of medical cannabis, which already enjoys special protection from Congress. Congressman Jared Polis, who introduced a bill in March 2017 to de-schedule marijuana as a federally illegal substance, worked with Gardner and state representatives Ed Perlmutter and Diana DeGette to create a spending-bill amendment to restrict the DOJ from interfering with Colorado's legal pot industry.

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