U.S. Attorney For Colorado Responds To Jeff Sessions’ Order To Go After Legal Marijuana Users
In a rare act of defiance, Colorado’s top federal prosecutor said his office won’t comply with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ order to aggressively enforce longstanding federal law banning pot in states that have legalized the drug.
U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer said his office “won’t alter its approach” to enforcing marijuana crimes after Sessions rescinded a Department of Justice policy on legal marijuana, according to local station KDVR-2News.
The statement by Troyer came amid bipartisan outrage over Sessions’ decision to end the so-called Cole memorandum, which sharply limited what charges prosecutors could pursue in legal pot states.
Troyer said his office will continue to focus on “identifying and prosecuting those who create the greatest safety threats to our communities around the state” and not pot smokers.
The U.S. attorney for Colorado took office in August 2016 after former President Barack Obama’s appointee stepped down. President Donald Trump hasn’t nominated a replacement.
As noted by the news outlet, Sessions’ move infuriated Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who said he’s placing a hold on Justice Department nominees and will try to push legislation to protect marijuana sales in states where they are legal.
The Colorado senator said Sessions promised him that he would not repeal the Obama-era policy on lenient enforcement before being confirmed as the nation’s top law enforcement official.
“What Jeff Sessions said is he didn’t think it was on Trump’s agenda to do this, he didn’t think President Trump had the bandwidth to do this, and he had no plans to repeal the Cole memorandum,” Gardner said in an interview.
Gardner noted that during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump told a reporter that he believed marijuana should be left up to the states.
“Why does Jeff Sessions think President Trump was wrong?” he asked.
Colorado’s senior senator, Democrat Michael Bennet, also slammed Sessions’ move.
“In rescinding the Cole memo, the Attorney General failed to listen to Colorado, and will create unnecessary chaos and confusion,” he said according to the station.
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado condemned the decision as an infringement on states’ rights and pledged to fight any action targeting the state’s legal market.
“Colorado had every right to legalize marijuana, and I will do everything I can to protect that right against the power of an overreaching federal government,” the Republican said in a statement.
The state’s former “marijuana czar,” Andrew Freedman, said Sessions’ only point was to create confusion but that the Justice Department cannot force states to make pot illegal.
Freedman said the uncertainty will make law-abiding people less likely to get involved in the market and make it harder for banks and insurance companies to justify the risk of working with marijuana businesses.
“It seems like a foolish step. Certainty brings better players into the market, more legitimate capital. People who want to be law-abiding will be more likely to enter into the regulated system,” he said.