DENVER – U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner said Friday he’d received assurances from President Trump this week that Colorado’s legal marijuana industries won’t be affected by Justice Department rule changes implemented earlier this year, and said the president backs a congressional fix.
“Late Wednesday, I received a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice’s recission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado’s legal marijuana industry,” Gardner, a Colorado Republican and the NRSC chair, said in a statement to Denver7. “Furthermore, President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”
Gardner said that he’d decided to lift the remaining holds on Justice Department nominees that have been in place since January, when Sessions decided to rescind the 2013 Cole memo, which generally protected states with legal marijuana programs from extraneous federal law enforcement.
He dropped some of the holds in February “as an act of good faith,” he said at the time, after discussions with the deputy U.S. attorney general. The holds were to have stayed in place until Gardner received the assurance from the Justice Department or president, he had said.
All of Colorado’s members of Congress except for Rep. Doug Lamborn have been working in varying degrees to pass legislation to protect Colorado’s recreational and medical marijuana programs.
After Sessions made his announcement in early January, the acting U.S. attorney for Colorado reassured the members of Congress that federal enforcement rules in Colorado wouldn’t change much – but the members have pushed for further reassurances.
Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., had tried to get an amendment into the omnibus spending bill Congress passed in late March that would have protected recreational pot programs. The provision would have prohibited the Justice Department from spending money to crack down on recreational marijuana in states where it is legal, but it was nixed. But the omnibus bill did include similar protections for states with medical marijuana programs.
Gardner and Polis, as well as Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Ed Perlmutter, expressed disappointment that the protections weren’t included in the spending bill, but said they would continue to work toward solutions.
Gardner said Friday that those discussions were active and ongoing.
“My colleagues and I are continuing to work diligently on a bipartisan legislative solution that can pass Congress and head to the President’s desk to deliver on his campaign position,” Gardner said in a statement.
Trump said during his 2016 campaign run that he would leave marijuana rules up to the states, so when Sessions made his January decision, Colorado politicians were incensed.
On Friday, White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told The Washington Post that Trump “does respect Colorado’s right to decide for themselves how to best approach this issue.”
But he also said the White House was “reluctant to reward that sort of behavior,” referring to Gardner’s holds that had affected around 20 nominees.