The decision by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rescind the Cole Memo on Thursday came as a shock to countless people across the country. Response in Colorado was fast, with Governor John Hickenlooper doing his best to put his people’s minds at ease. According to Hickenlooper, Sessions’ reversal of the Cole Memo will not alter his mission to carry out the will of the citizens of the state.
Colorado Governor Speaks for the People
In a statement on Thursday, Hickenlooper said, “Thirty states comprising more than two-thirds of the American people have legalized marijuana in some form. The Cole memo got it right and was foundational in guiding states’ efforts to regulate the production and distribution of marijuana. Colorado has created a comprehensive regulatory system committed to supporting the will of our voters. We constantly evaluate and seek to strengthen our approach to regulation and enforcement. Our focus will continue to be the public health and public safety of our citizens. We are expanding efforts to eliminate the black market and keep marijuana out of the hands of minors and criminals. Today’s decision does not alter the strength of our resolve in those areas, nor does it change my constitutional responsibilities.”
Colorado State Officials Offer their Opinions on Sessions’ Decision
Most of the state representatives in Colorado were disparaging of Sessions’ decision. Senator Cory Gardner was the first Colorado official in Washington DC to act in response to the breaking news story.
“Reports that the Justice Department will rescind their current policy on legal marijuana enforcement are extremely alarming,” Gardner said in a statement. “Before I voted to confirm Attorney General Sessions, he assured me that marijuana would not be a priority for this administration. Today’s action directly contradicts what I was told, and I am prepared to take all steps necessary, including holding DOJ nominees, until the Attorney General lives up to the commitment he made to me prior to his confirmation. In 2016, President Trump said marijuana legalization should be left up to the states, and I agree.”
Colorado Representative Jared Polis voiced a similar opinion. ““It is absurd that Attorney General Sessions has broken Trump’s campaign promise and is now waging war on legal marijuana and states’ rights,” said Polis in a statement. “The growing Colorado economy is in jeopardy with the news that the attorney general will now go after states that have decided to regulate marijuana. The Trump administration needs to back off and allow marijuana to be treated like alcohol under the law. At stake is a growing industry that has created 23,000 jobs and generated $200 million in tax revenue in Colorado. I’m calling on President Trump to overrule Attorney General Sessions and protect consumers, our economy, the will of the voters, and states’ rights.”
Congresswoman Diana DeGette voiced her criticism of the move by Sessions as well. “This step could drag us back to the days of raids on legal dispensaries and people living in fear of being jailed for using the medical marijuana they need,” she expressed. “It could create a chilling effect on an industry that employs thousands of people in Colorado alone, where sales now top $1 billion per year. The federal government shouldn’t take punitive steps that undermine the will of our citizens expressed at the state level.”
US Attorney Responsible for Enforcing Marijuana Laws in Colorado Will Not Crack Down on Cannabis Businesses
One of the most vital opinions of all leaders across the state of Colorado comes from Robert Troyer, US Attorney for the District of Colorado. It is Troyer who is responsible for deciding on how to enforce marijuana laws in the state.
In a statement released on Thursday soon after Sessions’ decision was announced, Troyer said, ““Today the Attorney General rescinded the Cole Memo on marijuana prosecutions, and directed that federal marijuana prosecution decisions be governed by the same principles that have long governed all of our prosecution decisions. The United States Attorney’s Office in Colorado has already been guided by these principles in marijuana prosecutions – focusing in particular on identifying and prosecuting those who create the greatest safety threats to our communities around the state. We will, consistent with the Attorney General’s latest guidance, continue to take this approach in all of our work with our law enforcement partners throughout Colorado.”
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman reported that her office was given no warning about the revocation of the Cole Memo. She stood behind the statements of Troyer and voiced opinions of her own.
“This does not undo all the hard work people have done to protect public safety and public health here in Colorado,” Coffman said. “And I think we all have to take a deep breath and look at what the guidance is, and let us have some conversations among law enforcement officials about priorities — but I do not see a major shift in Colorado in what has been happening in terms of regulation and enforcement of marijuana.”
What happens remains to be seen. What started out as a landmark year with California’s legalization could soon become something else entirely.