The Cole memo
On Thursday, January 4, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the “Cole memo,” the Obama administration’s policy of non-interference regarding marijuana-friendly state laws. Prior to Sessions change of policy, the department recognized marijuana as illegal under the federal government’s Controlled Substances Act, but allowed federal prosecutors to focus their resources on more important issues, such as opioid distribution and organized crime.
Many states have decriminalized marijuana use, but Jeff Sessions, supported by a number of Republicans still living in the 1950s, has chosen to dismiss hard evidence showing the medicinal effects of marijuana and declared marijuana use as dangerous. In a written statement, Sessions called his decision a “return to the rule of law.”
In 2013, a number of states started legalizing marijuana, and Cole, with the support of President Obama, issued a directive telling federal prosecutors to practice a policy of non-interference in marijuana-friendly states. Sessions’ support of an archaic policy came just days after California officially made recreational marijuana legal. California’s voters approved the law in November 2016, but the commercial sale of marijuana became legal on January 1st. Currently, the majority of states have legalized medical marijuana, with eight, including the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.), allow recreational use.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D), of Oregon, where marijuana is legal, also condemned the move. He stated,
“Trump promised to let states set their own marijuana policies. Now he’s breaking that promise so Jeff Sessions can pursue his extremist anti-marijuana crusade. Once again the Trump administration is doubling down on protecting states’ rights only when they believe the state is right.”
The Lieutenant Governor of California, Gavin Newsom (D), has vowed to promote cooperation with states which have legalized marijuana. He said,
“This brings states together around issues of freedom, individual liberty, states’ rights,” he said in an interview, “all of the principles that transcend red and blue.”
The decision to rescind the Cole Memo is a step backwards. If you would like to sign a petition supporting a reversal of Sessions’ efforts to punish people for smoking marijuana, it is available here.