Legislatures Demand Trump Restore Cole Memo

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A bipartisan group of legislators has collectively written a letter to Trump requesting that he restore the Cole Memo. The Cole Memo is a policy written during the Obama administration that protected states with legal marijuana protection against federal prosecution for crimes involving marijuana, provided that the states followed regulations. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the memo Jan. 4, 2018.

Sessions said last November at a congressional hearing that he would not rescind the Cole Memo, then did so less than 2 months later, angering many politicians in legal marijuana states. By revoking the protection, the Department of Justice has permitted state attorneys to prosecute for marijuana possession at their discretion. Washington, D.C. and 9 states have legalized marijuana, with 29 states having legal medical marijuana. The decision by Sessions to rescind the Cole Memo has brought confusion to medical consumers and entrepreneurs alike in these states.

Letter Quotes Trump's Campaign Promise

The bipartisan group behind the letter wants the Obama protection back and includes signatures from 54 legislatures. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) are leading the opposition, sending the letter to the president on Thursday. The letter requests that the president override Sessions as he tramples on states’ rights, citing his campaign promises to leave legal marijuana states to regulate themselves.  

The letter reads in part “As a candidate, you stated: ‘I really believe we should leave marijuana up to the states’ and that ‘it’s got to be a state decision.’ We trust that you still hold this belief, and we request that you urge the Attorney General to reinstate the Cole Memorandum.” The letter also states that regulating marijuana has helped to rid states of the black market and illegal marijuana, adding that regulation allows law enforcement to focus on real crimes.  

The legislators also note the 10th amendment to the Constitution, which says that the federal government is prohibited from interfering in states’ rights. Other legislators who signed the letter sent to the president on Thursday are Sen. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). The two lawmakers authored the Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment with Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) in 2014. The amendment blocks the Department of Justice from using any federal money to prosecute marijuana cases in legal medical marijuana states. Sen. Corey Booker (D-N.J.), who introduced legislation to legalize marijuana by ending federal prohibition last year, also signed the bill.  

Legislators Say Medical Consumers and Minorities Are at Risk

Also cited in the letter is the fact that it was the will of the voters in such states to legalize marijuana. A new poll by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News found that at least 60 percent of Americans think that marijuana should be legal. The letter says that revoking the Cole Memo goes against the voters, as well as noting that medical consumers, employees, consumers, minorities, veterans, and small business owners are now at risk due to Sessions and his controversial views on marijuana, who has said in the past that he used to like the Ku Klux Klan until he found out that they smoked pot (he has since stated that he was joking).  

Advocates for legalization say that African-Americans are particularly at risk due to Sessions revoking the Cole Memo. African-Americans are 3 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though Caucasians smoke weed at the same rate. For instance, in the city of Atlanta in 2016, 90 percent of all marijuana arrests were of African-Americans. 

Warren has also been advocating for the Trump administration to conduct research on marijuana to help combat the opioid epidemic. She also wants the federal government to make it legal for marijuana businesses to utilize banks.