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Colorado Congress members send letter to US Attorney General to reinstate Cole Memo

Annureet Kaur

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Colorado congress members wrote a letter to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging him to reconsider the rescission of the Cole Memo.

Democratic representatives Jared Polis, Diana DeGette and Ed Perlmutter, and Republican Rep. Mike Coffman signed the letter to Attorney General Sessions. In it, they urge the Department of Justice to reinstate the Cole Memo in order to ensure the Justice Department “is acting to uphold the will of Colorado voters and the rights of the states to regulate intrastate commerce.”

On January 4, Sessions issued a memo announcing that he was rescinding the Cole Memo issued during the Obama Administration to provide more clear cut guidelines for prosecutors, financial institutions and law enforcement agencies dealing with cannabis-related issues.

The Cole Memo was originally drafted in 2013 by former US General James M. Cole. The memo states that prosecutors and law enforcement should only focus on cannabis-related operations listed in the memo, which include:

  • Preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors
  • Preventing revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels
  • Preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states
  • Preventing state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity
  • Preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
  • Preventing drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use
  • Preventing the growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands
  • Preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property

While the Cole Memo protected Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and other cannabis-friendly states in the past, the rescission of the memo might put cannabis businesses under jeopardy. The lines were already a little blurred since state laws differ from federal laws when it comes to cannabis, but after the repeal of the memo, cannabis legal states fear unruly and unjust interference from the federal government.

“We represent a state that posed the question of marijuana legalization to its voters not once, but twice. Voters first approved the use of medical marijuana and subsequently, our constituents approved its use for adult recreational use. The citizens of Colorado have spoken on this issue. We believe we are obliged to heed their decision. Further, all the laws and regulations put in place governing the use of marijuana in our state clearly restrict it to a matter internal to the state of Colorado,” Colorado Congress members wrote in the letter.

“The president has previously identified marijuana use within a state as an issue for a state to decide, not the federal government,” they wrote. “Reinstating the Cole Memo and related guidance will help ensure the federal government is not unduly interfering in state policy,” the letter continued.

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