U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been busy sending letters to legal states that express his disdain for their supposed inability to follow the rules outlined in the Cole Memo, a signal, some say, that suggests the Justice Department is building a case for a federal marijuana crackdown.
But one Colorado lawmaker says he isn’t buying it. He said the letters are simply a “political ploy,” devised to reiterate the federal government’s position on marijuana.
State Representative Dan Pabon, a Democrat, who suffered unwanted media attention last year after pleading guilty to a drunk driving charge, was in Boston earlier this week as part of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) summit. Pabon, a strong advocate for protecting the sanctity of Colorado’s recreational marijuana laws, said during a panel discussion that the Trump administration has been dipping into its sack of alternative facts to show that legalization is not a functional policy.
The attorney general is “trying to do what he feels like he needs to do to demonstrate the administration’s position of cracking down on marijuana,” Pabon said, according to The Denver Post.
Sessions recently fired off borderline threatening letters to Colorado, Oregon and Washington, where taxed and regulated pot markets have been in full swing for the past few years, to bust their proverbial chops for allegedly not adhering to the guidelines established by the Obama administration that has allowed the legal marijuana “experiment” to stay mostly free of federal interference.
All of the letters are said to offer different points of criticism, but the attorney general remains adamant about how legal marijuana business is viewed through they eyes of Uncle Sam.
“Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a crime,” Sessions wrote. “The Department remains committed to enforcing the Controlled Substances Act in a manner that efficiently applies our resources to address the most significant threats to public health and safety.”
Despite the potential implications stemming from Sessions’ latest correspondence, most lawmakers in legal states are still moving full steam ahead with legal marijuana until the times comes -- if it ever does -- when the seemingly empty threats (so far) of Trump’s leading law enforcement hammer come down.
“To worry about what-ifs while we were trying to get our own system up and going, it felt like that was not good energy to spend,” said Maine state Representative Teresa Pierce. “Obviously if things change, we’ll have to adjust course. But at this point, who knows what will happen.”
But states do not seem to be close-minded when it comes to working with the attorney general to develop some kind of compromise on marijuana policy. In fact, Representative Pabon used his platform at the NCSL summit to express Colorado’s willingness to work with Sessions on ways to conquer his concerns about youth consumption and black market shenanigans.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who has admitted in the past that Colorado has not experienced an increase in teenage consumption since marijuana was made legal, recently told KRDO News 13 that he does not disagree with the Sessions letter, which suggests the state has seen a 20 percent increase in pot use among teens since the launch of retail sales.
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"I think we can work together," Hickenlooper told the news source. “He does believe teens are at risk when it comes to smoking pot.
"Kids should not smoke pot,” he added. “THC marijuana has a high percentage of taking a sliver of their long-term memory every single time they use it.”
Other lawmakers, like Colorado Senator Michael Merrifield, want nothing to do with a Sessions intervention. He says the picture that the attorney general is trying to paint is inaccurate, at best.
"Jeff Sessions needs to keep his reefer madness paranoia in Washington D.C. and let us handle a decision we've made," Merrifield said. "I think these numbers are exaggerated or pulled out of somebody's hat. I know initially they were saying the marijuana usage among youth had just exploded and that turned out to be untrue."
But will there actually be a crackdown?
Some experts believe that Sessions will attempt to find a “middle of the road” with respect to marijuana policy, while others think he will simply handle the situation however he wants, regardless of the input from legal states.
There is speculation that Sessions is leaning toward keeping the Cole Memo in place. But he might revise the guidelines to hold states to a higher level of accountability.