In yet another rebuke of his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, President Trump on Friday sent word to Senate Republican Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) that he would support legislation protecting states that have legalized marijuana. The move ends a months-long standoff between Gardner, who had used his pull as a Senator to block Justice Department nominees over the issue, and the administration.
According to The Washington Post, Gardner received a phone call late Wednesday from the President assuring him that Colorado’s cannabis industry would not be a target of the federal government. Gardner, whose state was the first to legalize marijuana back in 2014, vowed to block all DOJ nominees following Attorney General Sessions’ memo earlier this year alluding to a crackdown on the cannabis industry.
“Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states’ rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana,” Gardner said Friday, according to The Washington Post. “Late Wednesday, I received a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice’s rescission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado’s legal marijuana industry.”
Gardner said that the President took things even further by noting, “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. Because of these commitments, I have informed the Administration that I will be lifting my remaining holds on Department of Justice nominees.”
The Colorado Senator was vocal about his displeasure over Sessions’ move to rescind the “Cole memo,” the Obama-era memo that guided the federal government to stay out of states that had legalized marijuana. Sessions had pledged to stay away from the issue during his confirmation hearings, according to Gardner, even though the Attorney General is a known opponent of cannabis.
As per The Washington Post, Gardner held up around 20 Justice Department nominees, angering some in his party who saw the move as a bit of overreach.
“Clearly, we’ve expressed our frustration with the delay with a lot of our nominees and feel that too often, senators hijack a nominee for a policy solution,” White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said, according to The Washington Post. “So we’re reluctant to reward that sort of behavior. But at the same time, we’re anxious to get our team at the Department of Justice.”
The cannabis industry has had a coming out party of sorts on Capitol Hill this week, beginning with former House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) dive into the cannabis industry. Earlier this week it was announced that Boehner joined the board of cannabis company Acreage Holdings. Following that, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) introduced a bill to legalize industrial hemp on Thursday.
Finally, Senators Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and Kamala D. Harris (D-California) asked Sessions to have the Drug Enforcement Administration back off of efforts to stop medical marijuana research.
Gardner is currently working on a bill to codify into law President Trump’s promise. “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.