Unable to get Senators to remove federal protections for states that have legalized cannabis in the 2018 Budget, Jeff Sessions has moved on to trying to communicate with Governors in states that have legalized Marijuana.
In letters to the Governors of Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, Sessions pointed out instances in which their states had not complied with the 2013 Cole Memorandum, Obama-era guidance for how the federal government and states could cooperate on cannabis laws, since the substance is still illegal under federal law. The Cole Memorandum sets out guidelines that states which have legalized recreational or medical marijuana should follow if they don’t want federal intervention.
The Cole Memorandum sets out guidelines that states which have legalized recreational or medical marijuana should follow if they don’t want federal intervention.
Though the office of Oregon’s Gov. Kate Brown’s office didn’t present their letter to the press, the letters received by Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Washington’s Gov. Jay Inslee were nearly identical in structure and content.
Sessions cited instances where the states didn’t comply with the Cole Memorandum; for example, he cited the issues in Colorado with weed leaking over state borders into states without legal cannabis, and weed getting into the hands of minors. He referenced a report from Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), issued in September of 2016.
“These findings are relevant to the policy debate concerning marijuana legalization,” Sessions wrote in his letter to Colorado Gov. Hickenloper. “… please advise as to how Colorado plans to address the serious findings in the Rocky Mountain HIDTA report, including efforts to ensure that all marijuana activity is compliant with state marijuana laws, to combat diversion of marijuana, to protect public health and safety, and to prevent marijuana use by minors.”
Though Sessions’ letters did seem to take a stern note, at least Gov. Hickenloper’s marijuana advisor, Mark Bolton thinks so. When asked if he felt that this was a signal for an impending crackdown, he responded, “We don’t take it that way.”
Sessions’ focus on the Cole Memorandum and state complaince with it suggests that he may be more ok with it’s continued existence than previously thought: some analysts earlier this year believed that he was looking to have the memorandum removed entirely in order to have more flexibility in prosecuting federal law in states that have legalized. Whether this is a peace offering or a warning can only be seen with time.