DENVER – Six of Colorado’s seven members of Congress signed on Friday to a bipartisan letter sent to House leadership and the appropriations committee requesting that any new appropriations or funding bills not include language that would allow federal law enforcement relating to marijuana in most U.S. states.
The letter was signed by a bipartisan panel of nearly 70 members of Congress—many from states where marijuana is legal. It was sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and the committee chair and ranking member on the Appropriations Committee.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., was the only member of Congress from Colorado not to sign the letter, and is the only from Colorado who isn’t working to protect state marijuana programs, according to a joint news release from the rest of Colorado’s congressional delegation.
"If we're honest with ourselves, legalizing marijuana has been bad for the state of Colorado," Lamborn said in a statement to Denver7. "I applaud Attorney General Sessions for upholding the law and recognizing the serious and proven harms associated with marijuana."
Amendment 64, which was the voter-approved measure that legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado, was approved in Lamborn's home area of El Paso County by 10 votes.
“We are concerned with several attempts to apply federal law upon commerce related to cannabis that is conducted entirely within the boundaries of states that have legalized such commerce,” read the letter, whose lead writers were Polis and Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., who have offered the amendment on three separate occasions.
The letter points out that the federal government is allowed to regulate interstate commerce, but that Colorado’s marijuana programs, and those in California and Oregon, “are aimed solely at intrastate commerce and as such should not be interfered with.”
The letter asks that any new appropriations or funding bills include specific language noting that the money would specifically not be able to be used by the Justice Department to prevent any state “from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana on non-Federal lands within their respective jurisdictions.”
The proposed language applies every state except for Idaho, Kansas and South Dakota—states that have not legalized medical or recreational marijuana, or CBD oils, and thus can't be included under appropriations rules.
The letter builds on one Polis, Coffman, DeGette and Ed Perlmutter sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions Tuesday demanding the Justice Department reinstate the Cole Memo, which Sessions rescinded last week, and allow Colorado to continue to operate its legal pot programs without interference.
Reps. Ken Buck and Scott Tipton -- both Colorado Republicans -- didn't sign the letter to Sessions, but did sign Friday's to leadership.
Colorado’s U.S. senators, Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, have also actively been trying to get guidance on the new rules, and have pushed both Sessions and President Trump on reinstating the Cole Memo.
Gardner met with Sessions earlier this week, and he and Bennet have met with most of the House members from Colorado who signed on to Friday’s letter to discuss what Congress might be able to do to protect Colorado’s marijuana and businesses.
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.
Most of the members of Congress from Colorado said Friday they had also spoken with Troyer that day and had continued to speak with the Justice Department in the week since. A joint statement from the delegation said that he told them that the new guidance wouldn’t lead to an increase in marijuana prosecutions.
“If federal authorities were to suddenly reverse course and take punitive measures to undermine Colorado’s marijuana statutes, it would create a chilling effect on an industry that employs thousands of people in our state, where sales now exceed $1 billion per year,” said a joint statement from the Colorado delegation, save for Lamborn. “We are united in the view that the federal government shouldn’t subvert the will of our citizens expressed at the state level.”
“For several years, I have introduced a bipartisan amendment with Rep. McClintock….Now with Attorney General Sessions’s shortsighted announcement, I am thrilled to welcome nearly 70 members who are asking for the amendment to be attached to the government-funding bill,” Polis said in a statement. “It would be a temporary, but urgent and necessary fix, as I continue to push for passage of my Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, which would finally lift the federal prohibition on marijuana.”
If the amendment can get support, it would be added to the next spending bill, which Congress has to pass by the end of Jan. 19 to avoid a government shutdown.