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Trump and Senator Gardner strike a deal over legalized cannabis protections

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President Donald Trump has promised Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner he will support congressional efforts to protect states with cannabis legislation for both medicinal and social use. The move has defused a long standoff between the president and Sen. Gardner over Justice Department nominees.

Sen. Gardner reported in January he would block all DOJ nominations after Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo that heightened the prospect of a federal cannabis crackdown in states that have legalized the plant for social use. Trump told Sen. Gardner in a phone call Wednesday that despite Sessions’ memo, the cannabis industry in Colorado will not be targeted, according to Sen. Gardner.

“Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states’ rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana,” Gardner said Friday. “Late Wednesday, I received a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice’s rescission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado’s legal marijuana industry.”

“Furthermore, President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all,” Sen. Gardner continued. “Because of these commitments, I have informed the Administration that I will be lifting my remaining holds on Department of Justice nominees.”

Sen. Gardner, who heads the campaign operation responsible for retaining the Republicans’ Senate Majority, was extremely angry in January after Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo. The Memo, which was guidance started during the Obama administration, extended protections to states that legalized cannabis for social use. The new memo Sessions issued states prosecutors should use their discretion in deciding whether federal charges are warranted rather than abiding by the Cole Memo.


President Trump, however, has spoken on the record staying he would leave cannabis as a state issue, not a federal one. This starkly contrasts Sessions’ opinion, as he once stated only “bad people” smoke cannabis and equated the plant to be as dangerous as heroin.

In an interview Friday, White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said President Trump does respect Colorado’s right to decide how to approach cannabis.

Sen. Gardner had help up roughly 20 Justice nominees in response to Sessions’ memo.

“Clearly, we’ve expressed our frustration with the delay with a lot of our nominees and feel that too often, senators hijack a nominee for a policy solution,” Short said. “So we’re reluctant to reward that sort of behavior. But at the same time, we’re anxious to get our team at the Department of Justice.”

Though formal legislative protections for social cannabis states has yet to be created, Sen. Gardner has been conversing with other senators on how to fix the issue and make it clear that the federal government cannot interfere with states who have chosen to legalize cannabis.

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Trump and Senator Gardner strike a deal over legalized cannabis protections