The letter is in response to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ rescinding of the Cole Memo earlier this year.
A bipartisan group of 54 lawmakers has urged the United States Department of Justice to back off of legal marijuana in a January 25 letter directed to Donald Trump. The letter, spearheaded by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), urges Trump to direct U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reinstate an Obama-era policy that permitted states to legalize marijuana without interference from the Department of Justice.
“We write with urgent concern regarding the recent steps taken by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to disrupt state efforts to implement their own marijuana enforcement policies,” the letter reads.
On January 4, Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo, a federal policy drafted by former U.S. Attorney General James M. Cole in 2013 that directed federal law enforcement to not prioritize the crackdown of state-legal adult use marijuana operations.
The policy change by Sessions, who has made it clear he’s strongly opposed to cannabis legalization, indicated intentions to enforce federal marijuana law and interfere with the nine U.S. states that have legalized recreational marijuana. The move immediately drew criticism from Democrats and Republicans, cannabis advocates, and business owners.
In the letter, the members of Congress directly called out Trump for the statements made throughout his campaign run in which he said he supported decisions regarding marijuana legalization to be left up to individual states.
“As a candidate, you stated: ‘I really believe we should leave [marijuana] up to the states’ and ‘it’s got to be a state decision,’” the letter reads. “We trust that you still hold this believe, and we request that you urge the Attorney General to reinstate the Cole Memorandum.”
The lawmakers also stressed the negative effect Sessions’ attack on marijuana legalization will have on employment opportunities, small businesses, state infrastructure, minorities, consumers, and medical marijuana patients.
“These new policies have helped eliminate the black market sale of marijuana and allowed law enforcement to focus on real threats to public health and safety,” the lawmakers explain in the letter. “This action by the Department of Justice has the potential to unravel efforts to build sensible drug policies that encourage economic development as we finally move away from antiquated practices that have hurt disadvantaged communities.”
Marijuana Laws in the U.S.
Despite marijuana remaining illegal under federal law, so far nine states and the District of Columbia have moved to legalize recreational marijuana. These states include Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, California, and most recently, Vermont.
Nearly 30 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical purposes.
Sessions’ rescinding of the Cole Memo has also prompted the introduction of new legislation, including a U.S. House Bill introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) that would protect marijuana states from federal enforcement.
A majority of Americans, considering marijuana to be safer than tobacco, alcohol, and sugar, favor marijuana legalization. A recent Quinnipiac University survey found that 61 percent of Americans believe marijuana should be legal – the highest level of public support for adult use cannabis legalization in nearly a half-century.
A recent study found that nationwide marijuana legalization would generate $132 billion in tax revenue and create 1 million new jobs.
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