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Republican Senator Cory Gardner Couldn’t Convince Jeff Sessions to Change His Mind on Cannabis

A new survey suggests Americans of all backgrounds oppose Sessions’ Cole Memo cancellation, but after a meeting with Sen. Gardner, it’s clear the Attorney General won’t be backing down.

by Zach Harris

Photo via Gage Skidmore

A meeting between Colorado Senator Cory Gardner and Attorney General Jeff Sessions Wednesday did not result in the reinstatement of the Cole Memo, despite Sen. Gardner’s pleas for states’ rights and conservative kinship.

According to local ABC affiliate Denver7, Sen. Gardner — a Republican who opposed his home state’s decision to legalize and regulate adult-use cannabis — met with Sessions on Wednesday in an attempt to persuade America’s top cop to overturn his anti-cannabis stance. Unfortunately, the meeting did not sway Sessions’ reefer madness mindset.

“I think the meeting kind of went as I expected it to,” Gardner told Denver7 afterwards. “I shared my states’ rights position with Attorney General Sessions, and he shared his concern about the Cole Memorandum and why he rescinded it, and he also reiterated that the U.S. attorneys will be in the position to make these determinations.”

Neither Sessions nor Sen. Gardner have told the American public what the Attorney General’s “concern about the Cole Memorandum” actually is (outside of his long history of falsely predicted cannabis fears).

Thankfully in the week since Sessions directed federal prosecutors to return to “previously established prosecutorial principles” when considering cannabis crimes, U.S. attorneys across legal weed states have largely expressed their intentions to leave state-sanctioned cannabis alone, with a number of federal prosecutors releasing statements reiterating a focus on federal drug crimes that concern deadly opioids, interstate trafficking, and sale to minors.

While Sen. Gardner wasn’t able to convince Sessions to switch his stance and at respect states’ rights, the Colorado Senator previously promised to hold up the appointment of any further Justice Department nominees in Congress — interference he plans to continue in the face of Sessions’ stubbornness.

“My concern is that there is a lack of transparency when it comes to priorities at the Department of Justice, how those will be carried out, and that we now have…50-plus U.S. attorneys…who are going to be making decisions that may be at odds with other states,” Gardner told Denver7 Wednesday.

Those concerns have been expressed by cannabis advocates and industry insiders since even before Sessions killed the Cole Memo last week, but a new poll from the Huffington Post and YouGov suggests that Sen. Gardner represents the voice of the American public, as well.

According to the HuffPost/YouGov poll, which surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults on Jan. 5th and 6th, 56% of respondents said that they oppose federal interference in state-legal cannabis sales, with 30% in favor of a DOJ crackdown, and 14% “not sure.”

Breaking the survey findings down by political affiliation finds predictable results, with Democrats and Independents largely opposing federal interference, and Republicans almost evenly split but leaning slightly towards siding with Sessions.

It’s unknown whether Jeff Sessions or federal law enforcement will be mounting any armored raids against recreational pot shops, but with the Attorney General’s intentions far from clear, Sen. Gardner and his legislative peers are already crafting plans to pass legal weed protections through Congress, hoping to block Sessions from having any say at all.

As medical cannabis industry protections provided by the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment are set to expire in just 8 days with the federal budget, Gardner has suggested that Congress could act to block federal funds from being spent on state-legal cannabis enforcement — a goal that could be met by adding recreational cannabis to the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment and extending the budget rider into the remainder of 2018, or crafting an entirely new amendment.

“We’ll be looking at appropriations legislation,” Gardner said. “We’ll also be looking at broader legislation to address this issue. As you know, I opposed the legalization, but the fact is, this is a states’ rights decision, and that’s the message I delivered very clearly today to the attorney general.”


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Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.



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