The Koch brothers are one of the Republican party’s biggest donors. In fact, they have pledged to donate up to $400 million to Republicans running for office in the 2018 midterm elections. That kind of money carries a lot of weight with the party.
In January, the brothers began throwing that weight around in favor of states’ rights, the legalization of cannabis, and the end of the War on Drugs.
Sent in response to the Attorney General’s ditching of the Cole memo, the statement had some harsh words for Sessions.
"That Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a Republican appointee in a Republican administration, is undoing a Democratic appointee’s work from a Democratic administration is irrelevant,” the letter stated, adding, “Republicans and Democrats alike have criticized the decision, and for good reason: It does little to improve the lives of people in our communities."
Going beyond just defending states' rights, the statement also labels the war on drugs "misguided" and calls for a "new, smarter approach to drug policy."
"The administration would be better suited working with members of Congress to reform outdated sentencing laws," the statement reads. "However well-intentioned these laws were upon implementation, they have ruined lives, torn apart families and communities, and have burdened taxpayers, doing little to keep people safe."
Republican Support Is Growing
Since the Koch brothers’ statement, more and more Republicans have felt emboldened to stand up to the administration in this matter without fear of losing the support of GOP donors such as the Koch brothers.
Just last week, a bipartisan bill meant to replace the protections provided by the now-defunct "Cole memo" was introduced jointly by Representatives Lou Correa (D-CA) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL). The bill is entitled the "Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act."
Earlier this month, Senator Thom Tillis, another powerful Republican from North Carolina, in a letter addressed to an advocate for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) wrote, “Proposals to legalize marijuana should not be taken lightly. As you may know, I am a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and this issue will likely be discussed this Congress. If this issue comes before the Judiciary Committee or the full Senate, I will carefully consider everything you have said in making a decision on what is best for North Carolina and the country."
And in late January, a bipartisan group of 54 lawmakers sent a letter to President Trump urging him to call off Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who seems intent on harassing states which have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.
That letter was not the first action taken by joint members of Congress in reaction to Sessions’ threats. Just days after Sessions announced the death of the Cole Memo in early January, 69 members of Congress signed onto a letter proposing an amendment to the current spending bill that would include recreational marijuana protections.
Top Republicans Support Ending Federal Prohibition
In a recent article on Civilized entitled “8 Republicans Who Broke from the Party on Marijuana Legislation,” cannabiz journalist Joseph Misulonas wrote, “The Republican Party tends to adopt the old-school philosophy that marijuana is evil and legalization will be the downfall of society. But there are a few members of the GOP who are willing to speak out and break with the party on the issue.”
In the story, Misuloans discusses the stances of several Republicans, including Senator Bill Cassidy (Louisiana), a former doctor who supports legalizing medical marijuana, Senator Steve Daines (Montana), who once prominently supported a bill that would prevent the DEA from interfering with states with medical marijuana laws, and Senator Orrin Hatch (Utah), one of the oldest members of Congress, who recently came out as a pro-cannabis politician.
Also mentioned in Misuloans’ piece are Senator Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), one of the first people to denounce Sessions’ trashing of the Cole Memo, and Senator Cory Gardner (Colorado), who has been blocking the Department of Justice from receiving any new nominees until Sessions’ reverses his marijuana policies.
In at number one and two on the list are Senator Rand Paul (Kentucky) and Dana Rohrabacher (California). Paul supported legalizing medical marijuana nationally while denouncing the War on Drugs. Rohrabacher was a co-author of one of the most important pieces of cannabis legislation currently in play, the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which prevents the federal government from interfering with states that legalize medical marijuana.
While Republicans seem to be warming up to the idea of ending federal prohibition and the War on Drugs, according to a report in Forbes, marijuana legalization “is quickly becoming a mainstream consensus position in the Democratic Party.”
Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), who introduced the Marijuana Justice Act last August, says that “Legalizing marijuana isn’t a matter of if, it’s a matter of when."
Illustration by DonkeyHotey