Panel led by dozens of Colorado local leaders urges feds to reconsider marijuana memo

DENVER – A large panel of Colorado leaders, headed by Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace, sent a letter Thursday to Attorney General Jeff Sessions pressing him over their concerns about his rescinding of a key Justice Department memo relating to the federal enforcement of marijuana in states where it’s legal.

The group, Leaders for Reform, includes county commissioners, city council members and other political leadership from across Colorado, as well as other leadership from states where marijuana is legal. They ask sessions to put together a “bipartisan and bicameral” task force to align state and federal marijuana laws.

The group’s letter to Sessions says that his rescission of the 2013 Cole Memo “created uncertainty for [the signees’] local governments by leaving federal enforcement decisions up to each individual U.S. Attorney, resulting in what could be selective and unfair enforcement.”

It says the memo allowed for them to ensure that marijuana stayed out of the hands of children and kept more of it from crossing state lines—something Colorado has worked to curb since recreational marijuana was legalized. The letter also points to the banking industry’s work with the marijuana industry, and how the memo protected financial institutions.

“Of greatest concern, however, is the sheer confusion felt by local officials who now face governing in a chaotic environment,” the group wrote in Thursday’s letter.

The group wrote that “the public wants this decision left up to states and localities” and that they believe states’ legal marijuana programs are states’ rights issues.

The group asks that should a task force be formed, the Justice Department not interfere with marijuana businesses operating within state rules.

The group also took out a full-page advertisement in the Washington Times urging their sentiments.

U.S. Attorney for Colorado Bob Troyer said at a news conference the day that Sessions’ decision was announced that Colorado’s federal prosecutors had already been operating much in line with the new Justice Department guidance, quelling some fears in Colorado.

All of Colorado’s congressional delegation except for Rep. Doug Lamborn have been working together, along with other lawmakers from states where marijuana is legal, to come up with solutions to protect Colorado’s marijuana industry and financial institutions.

A joint statement from the delegation said that Troyer had told them that the new guidance wouldn’t lead to an increase in marijuana prosecutions in Colorado.

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and 18 other attorneys general have also written to Sessions regarding his rescission of the memo, and Rep. Jared Polis and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have led a bicameral panel urging Sessions to reconsider lifting the memo.

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