It was just last month that Colorado Senator Cory Gardner threatened to hold up key Justice Department nominees until US Attorney General Jeff Sessions revered his attitude on state marijuana laws. He has stuck to his word. Now, the lawmaker is receiving some blowback from Sessions, who calls the confirmation delay “frustrating.”
“Too often, we’ve seen bad judgments, even politics enter into the work that we do,” Sessions said during a speech earlier this week at a National Sheriffs’ Association event. “We’re trying to confirm a number of important component heads at the Department of Justice. It’s just getting to be frustrating, I’ve gotta tell you. Our nominee to the National Security Division — the anti-terrorism division — was approved unanimously in the committee. But because right now one senator’s concerns over unrelated issues — like reversing federal law against marijuana — we can’t even get a vote.”
Although Sessions did not call Senator Gardner out by name, the direction of his angst was fully understood. Gardener, who voted to confirm Sessions last year based on a promise that marijuana enforcement would not be a priority, says he feels duped over the reversal of an Obama-era memo that has allowed states to experiment with marijuana legalization. He told NPR that the policy shift “directly contradicts” the promise made by Sessions on the issue prior to his confirmation as attorney general.
The two met in January to hash out their differences, and “there was no breakthrough,” according to Gardner. But the Senator is not letting up until an agreement is made. “I have not changed my decision to hold these nominations until we have a commitment that lives up to what I believe was given to me prior to the confirmation,” Gardner added.
Sessions, who prior to his confirmation told Congress to change the national marijuana laws if enforcement was was no longer needed, says he, “Cannot and will not pretend that a duly enacted law of this country — like the federal ban on marijuana — does not exist.”
“Marijuana is illegal in the United States — even in Colorado, California, and everywhere else in America,” he added.
Senator Gardner hasn’t always been a pro-pot reform advocate. In fact, he was opposed to marijuana legalization in Colorado before the passing of Amendment 64. But now he feels it is his duty to protect the voice of the voters. There is now some talk about Congressional action. Gardner says he is reaching for “a long-term legislative solution.” But there still isn’t enough support Capitol Hill to bring this issue to a head in 2018.