A bipartisan coalition of 54 members of Congress issued a clear message to President Trump late Wednesday: Keep your campaign promise and keep your hands off our legal marijuana.
The congressional group, led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), is yet another rebuke of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ move earlier this month to rescind Obama-era guidelines that protected cannabis operations in states that have voted for it.
As of this month, the Department of Justice and other federal agencies have the authority to enforce prohibition, going against the will of the people in nine recreational states and 29 medical states.
Wednesday night’s congressional letter, first reported by Tom Angell at Marijuana Moment, takes direct aim at Sessions’ ruling and urges Trump to follow through on the pledge he made throughout his run for the White House.
“This action has the potential to unravel efforts to build sensible drug policies that encourage economic development as we are finally moving away from antiquated practices that have hurt disadvantaged communities,” the letter addressed to Trump said. “These new policies have instead helped eliminate the black market sale of marijuana and allowed law enforcement to focus on real threats to public health and safety.”
During the campaign, candidate Trump repeatedly promised he would allow the states to set their own laws in regard to marijuana:
- In an interview on July 29, 2016, Trump said: “I wouldn’t do that [using federal authority to shut down recreational marijuana], no … I wouldn’t do that … I think it’s up to the states, yeah. I’m a states person. I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.”
- In an interview on March 8, 2016, Trump said: “I think it certainly has to be a state — I have not smoked it — it’s got to be a state decision … I do like it, you know, from a medical standpoint … it does do pretty good things. But from the other standpoint, I think that it should be up to the states.
- At a campaign rally (see video below) on Oct. 29, 2015, Trump said: “The marijuana thing is such a big thing. I think medical should happen — right? Don’t we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states. It should be a state situation … but I believe that the legalization of marijuana – other than for medical because I think medical, you know I know people that are very, very sick and for whatever reason the marijuana really helps them – … but in terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state.”
The letter from the members of Congress urged Trump to follow through with his promise.
“We trust that you still hold this belief, and we request that you urge the Attorney General to reinstate the Cole Memorandum,” the congressional coalition wrote. “This step would create a pathway to a more comprehensive marijuana policy that respects state interests and prerogatives. On behalf of the communities we represent, we hope you appreciate the critical nature of this issue and take immediate action.”