Sessions’s Decision on the Cole Memo

The memo has allowed states to craft their own legislation regarding marijuana without much federal interference.

By Jennifer Floyd –

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is set to rescind a federal memo known as the Cole memo.

That memo provided guidelines for U.S. attorneys when dealing with marijuana in states that have legalized the drug, according to the Associated Press.

Listed by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule 1 drug along with heroin and LSD, marijuana and derived products remain illegal for medical as well as recreational use under federal law.

The memo, which was created during the Obama administration, has allowed states to craft their own legislation regarding the drug without much federal interference. This is set to change, as Sessions, a longtime opponent of marijuana legalization, will allow federal attorneys to be more aggressive in their enforcement of federal law. The decision is at odds with President Trump’s statements during the campaign that marijuana legalization should be left up to the states.

Cory Gardner, a Republican Senator from Colorado, a state that legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2012, took to Twitter to denounce the decision. “With no prior notice to Congress, the Justice Department has trampled on the will of the voters in CO and other states,” the lawmaker said.

He vowed to take all steps necessary, including delaying the appointment of DOJ nominees in his state, until Sessions fulfills his promise to Gardner that the federal government would not interfere in the state’s decision to legalize the drug. “Before I voted to confirm Attorney General Sessions, he assured me that marijuana would not be a priority for this administration.”

The Cole memo, written and approved under Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder, focused on using federal resources to enforce policies that were important to the federal government, such as the sale of the drug to minors and the prevention of marijuana revenue from going to criminal organizations.

Critics of the decision say that this will give the federal government more fuel to continue the war on drugs, a failed endeavor that costs the American taxpayers close to $51 billion a year, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. Drug offenses account for 48% of those incarcerated in federal prison; with the repeal of the Cole guidelines, that number might climb.

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