Trump, AG Sessions at odds over marijuana as federal legislation introduced

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Trump are at odds once again, this time over states’ rights and marijuana. When Sessions and the Justice Department (DOJ) rescinded the Obama era “Cole Memorandum,” in January, the divide between Sessions and the president’s vision on marijuana legalization policy became very evident.

The Cole memo has been a blanket of protection for states with a legal cannabis industry since 2013. The provocative actions by the DOJ ignited a states rights powder keg that has led to another public rift between the duo.

President Trump and candidate Trump have never wavered on the issue. As a candidate, Trump stated the “marijuana issue” should be left to the states. In July 2016, Trump told the Colorado Springs Gazette he was aware of the positive effects medicinal marijuana and favors legalization.

Additionally, Trump’s position is that any other use of marijuana should be left up to the citizens of the individual states. On May 30, President Trump signed the “Right to Try” law which allows terminally ill patients anywhere in the U.S. to access drugs that are not yet approved by the FDA.

As a result, medicinal marijuana now qualifies as an “eligible investigational drug.”

Earlier this week, Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced the bipartisan “Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Entrusting States (STATES) Act”, a bill that would allow states to pass their own marijuana laws without interference from the federal government. A state’s law, in other words, would be the law of the land, finally in compliance with the 10th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The legislation also addresses the banking component. The legal cannabis industry was worth over $1.5 billion in 2017 in Colorado alone.  Currently, the federal government views marijuana as a “Schedule I” drug, which makes it illegal for one to deposit proceeds from sales into a federally backed bank, thus pushing a nearly $10 billion industry completely out of the American financial system.

In January, when DOJ opened the door for a federal crackdown, one of the first responders to the scene was Gardner, who started in on Sessions immediately as the attorney general had told the Colorado senator a few months earlier he would not prosecute states for taxing legal marijuana sales.

Gardner wasted no time and held up approximately 20 Justice Department nominees until he was given personal assurances by Trump not only that Colorado’s legal cannabis industry would not be targeted by DOJ, but that the president himself would support a legislative solution.

The president confirmed that possibility again last week on his way to the G7 Summit, telling reporters he “probably would end up supporting [the STATES Act bill].”

In the end, this isn’t about President Trump or Jeff Sessions. It’s about states’ rights, it’s about the Constitution, it’s about addressing and correcting a billion-dollar banking issue, and to millions of Americans who have a vested medical interest, it’s about much more than that. After all, well over half of U.S. residents — more than 60 percent — now live in a state with some form of legalized marijuana.

Stay tuned.


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