Responses to the Attorney General on Pot

The Justice Department is taking aim at marijuana.  The Justice Department plans to rescind a policy that eased enforcement of federal marijuana laws.  The Obama-era policy focused on states where marijuana has been legalized or decriminalized.  Marijuana use is still illegal under federal law.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions has argued that federal marijuana laws should be strictly enforced.  Sessions believes marijuana is a dangerous gateway drug.  The move could provoke some huge legal battles between several states and the Justice Department.  KOA Newsradio is compiling comments on this issue from all sides.



DENVER – U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer of the District of Colorado has issued the following statement regarding marijuana prosecutions:

“Today the Attorney General rescinded the Cole Memo on marijuana prosecutions, and directed that federal marijuana prosecution decisions be governed by the same principles that have long governed all of our prosecution decisions. The United States Attorney’s Office in Colorado has already been guided by these principles in marijuana prosecutions -- focusing in particular on identifying and prosecuting those who create the greatest safety threats to our communities around the state. We will, consistent with the Attorney General’s latest guidance, continue to take this approach in all of our work with our law enforcement partners throughout Colorado.”

U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer, District of Colorado


Gov. Hickenlooper’s statement on Trump Administration’s decision to rescind policy guiding federal approach to marijuana legalization

DENVER — Gov. John Hickenlooper today released the following statement on the Trump Administration’s decision to rescind the Cole Memorandum.

“Thirty states comprising more than two thirds of the American people have legalized marijuana in some form. The Cole memo got it right and was foundational in guiding states’ efforts to regulate the production and distribution of marijuana. Colorado has created a comprehensive regulatory system committed to supporting the will of our voters. We constantly evaluate and seek to strengthen our approach to regulation and enforcement. Our focus will continue to be the public health and public safety of our citizens. We are expanding efforts to eliminate the black market and keep marijuana out of the hands of minors and criminals. Today’s decision does not alter the strength of our resolve in those areas, nor does it change my constitutional responsibilities.”

Statement from Colorado Bankers Association regarding Sessions’ announcement on marijuana enforcement 

DENVER – Today, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced intentions to withdraw support of an Obama-era policy that issued a temporary stay of enforcement of federal drug laws related to serving the marijuana industry, known as the “Cole memo.”

Below is commentary from the Colorado Bankers Association regarding the move.

“We expect this will have a chilling effect on the marijuana industry in Colorado. While banks are more concerned about the actions of their regulators than they are about federal prosecution, this move further blurs the direction the Cole memo gave us as a temporary stay of enforcement. That, we believe, will result in further caution and perhaps retreat by both bank regulators and banks that are serving the industry or contemplating doing so,” said Don Childears, president and CEO of the Colorado Bankers Association.

He continued, “Colorado U.S. Attorney Troyer was appointed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions as we presume other Attorneys were in other jurisdictions. We can assume they will generally follow Sessions’ directions.”

“That said, it is unclear by jurisdiction how U.S. attorneys will proceed with enforcement and prosecution, as they set priorities based on local circumstances and each attorney’s individual judgement,” he added.

The Colorado Bankers Association continues to assert its long-held belief that an Act of Congress is the only true solution to the state’s legal conflict with federal drug laws.

The same day the U.S. Treasury issued guidance based on the Cole memo in 2014, CBA asserted a need for the permanence of law, versus changeable guidance. “Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level and banks must follow all laws. Banks are responsible to regulators, most of which are independent and uncontrolled by the President’s Executive Branch. The idea of no prosecution is nice, but to banks regulators have the real power.”

Aggressive Federal Marijuana Action Would Undermine Rights and Jeopardize Industry, DeGette Says


Washington, DC – Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO), Chief Deputy Whip, said if the Justice Department urges federal prosecutors to more aggressively enforce marijuana laws in states such as Colorado that have legalized sales of the drug, it will undermine people’s rights and jeopardize an important industry.

“This step could drag us back to the days of raids on legal dispensaries and people living in fear being jailed for using the medical marijuana they need,” DeGette said. “It could create a chilling effect on an industry that employs thousands of people in Colorado alone, where sales now top $1 billion per year. The federal government shouldn’t take punitive steps that undermine the will of our citizens expressed at the state level.”

DeGette is the author of bipartisan legislation to ensure that the federal government does not pre-empt state laws on marijuana; it clarifies congressional intent and provides guidance for courts.

Gardner Statement on DOJ Marijuana Legalization Enforcement

Washington, DC - Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) released the below statement following the reported action being taken by the Justice Department on marijuana legalization enforcement:

“Reports that the Justice Department will rescind their current policy on legal marijuana enforcement are extremely alarming. Before I voted to confirm Attorney General Sessions, he assured me that marijuana would not be a priority for this Administration. Today’s action directly contradicts what I was told, and I am prepared to take all steps necessary, including holding DOJ nominees, until the Attorney General lives up to the commitment he made to me prior to his confirmation. In 2016, President Trump said marijuana legalization should be left up to the states and I agree.”

The following statement was issued by Sal Pace, Pueblo County Commissioner & former Colorado House Democratic Leader. He represents 165,000 residents in Pueblo County Colorado:

"Any move by the DOJ to reverse cannabis legalization enacted by citizens across the country will be opposed vigorously by a bipartisan national coalition of local elected officials. A reversal of the sovereign voice of the American public is an assault on the intellect of Americans, an assault on the fundamental tenants of democracy, and an attack on the Constitutional guarantee of states’ rights. That is why I am bringing together local elected officials across the country to demand that Congress act immediately to protect the voice of their constituents and allow states to determine their own fate.

The American public has spoken loud and clear that states should have the right to determine their own fate on cannabis, and not some appointed official.

The same 165,000 residents who elected me, voted for Donald Trump and voted in favor of the legalization of marijuana. The citizens from this Trump backing county do not want this economic engine shut down, sending thousands of people to the unemployment line and costing our County government millions in tax revenues.”

Pueblo has more than 100 legal marijuana cultivations, and has been called the Napa Valley of the industry in Colorado. County Commissioner Sal Pace has been recognized as the “face of regulation” by local media. Roughly $6 million of Pueblo County’s $88 million general fund is supported by cannabis tax revenues. Pace was instrumental in creating the world’s first cannabis funded college scholarship program for every high school graduate and for creating the Institute of Cannabis Research at CSU-Pueblo.”

Leading Colorado Attorney and Advocate Issues Statement Regarding Rescinding of Federal Marijuana Enforcement Guidance

Statement below from Brian Vicente, co-author of Amendment 64 and founding partner of Vicente Sederberg LLC

DENVER — Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a memo to U.S. attorneys Thursday announcing he has rescinded all previously issued Justice Department guidance concerning marijuana policy. Previous guidance includes:

 The October 2009 memo from Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden to U.S. attorneys regarding "Investigations and Prosecutions in States Authorizing the Medical Use of Marijuana;” The June 2011 memo from Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole to U.S. attorneys providing "Guidance Regarding the Ogden Memo in Jurisdictions Seeking to Authorize Marijuana for Medical Use;” The August 2013 memo from Cole to U.S. attorneys providing "Guidance Regarding Marijuana Enforcement;” The February 2014 memo from Cole to U.S. attorneys providing "Guidance Regarding Marijuana Related Financial Crimes;” and The October 2014 policy statement from Monty Wilkinson, director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, regarding "Marijuana Issues in Indian Country.” 

Statement from Brian Vicente, co-author of the Colorado legalization initiative, Amendment 64, and founding partner of Vicente Sederberg LLC, a preeminent national cannabis law firm representing cannabis businesses around the nation:

"Since August 2013, the 'Cole Memo' has served as guidance to prosecutors regarding prioritization and prosecutorial discretion with respect to federal marijuana law enforcement. It was not a law or binding policy and, as it explicitly stated, it never altered the Justice Department's authority to enforce federal marijuana laws. The rescinding of the Cole Memo does not indicate any specific changes in enforcement policy, and it remains to be seen whether it will have any significant impact on the Department's actions. U.S. attorneys had vast prosecutorial discretion before and they will continue to have the same level of discretion."We hope federal prosecutors will share the position that President Trump expressed during his campaign, when he stated that marijuana policy should 'absolutely' be left to the states. We also strongly encourage them to take into account the strong public support for letting states develop their own marijuana laws. Polls show nearly two-thirds of American voters — including a majority of Republicans — think marijuana should be legal for adult use. Even more have expressed opposition to the federal government interfering in state's marijuana policy decisions."The regulated marijuana market is steadily replacing the criminal market while also creating tens of thousands of jobs and pumping hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenue into state economies. It would be incredibly counterproductive for the federal government to roll back this progress and hand the marijuana industry back over to cartels and criminals. States like Colorado and Washington have demonstrated that regulating marijuana works. Officials in these states are doing more than ever before to control marijuana, and it would behoove federal authorities to work with them and not against them."

Mayor Hancock Statement on Attorney General’s Decision to Rollback Obama-Era Marijuana Policy

DENVER – Mayor Michael B. Hancock expressed his severe disappointment in U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision today to rescind the Obama-era policy regarding states that have voted to legalize recreational marijuana:

“Denver and Colorado residents voted overwhelmingly to legalize recreational marijuana in our state in 2012. Since then, we have worked diligently to implement their will in a way that works for Denver, and through this work, we have become an international model for how to do it right. The decision today by Attorney General Sessions to roll back the guidance we received from the Obama Justice Department is severely disappointing and lacks good judgment. They should respect the will of our voters, and this is just another example that this administration doesn’t listen, doesn’t pay attention and just doesn’t care. I urge our congressional representatives to take immediate action to protect our voters’ will from this disastrous decision.”

Trump Administration’s Decision to Rescind Federal Marijuana Policy Poses Risk to Colorado Businesses

Denver – Colorado Leads, a pro-business alliance created to help educate the public about the economic and community benefits of a safe, regulated medical and recreational cannabis industry, joined Colorado’s elected leaders Thursday in calling for U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his decision to rescind the federal government’s policy on legal marijuana enforcement.

“The unintended consequences of this decision may create a confusing and uncertain business climate that puts legitimate and responsible businesses at risk,” said Chuck Smith, Board President of Colorado Leads, noting that there were also public safety concerns.

The Attorney General’s decision, for instance, may block cannabis companies from lawful banking, despite the steady increase in the number of banks and credit unions willing to open accounts for marijuana-related businesses. Additionally, Colorado’s regulated marijuana industry has supplanted much of the black market, and since legalization, the rate of adolescent marijuana use in Colorado has fallen to its lowest level in nearly a decade, according to federal data.

“Colorado’s cannabis industry is a success story in no small part because companies have deliberately acted in a responsible manner and worked with state regulators to create strict regulations considered the model for other states,” Smith said.

The cannabis industry is now the fastest-growing business sector in the state, creating more than 20,000 jobs and generating an economic impact of $2.4 billion. The tax revenue generated by the sale of marijuana – which topped half a billion dollars in the first three-and-half years following legalization– generated more than $226 million in taxes and fees in 2017 through November.

In the last two fiscal years, $ 117.9 million was used to fund school construction projects, and more than $16 million was allocated for substance abuse prevention and treatment, and $10.4 million was used for mental and behavioral health services. Another $5.8 million was allocated for school drop-out prevention programs and bullying prevention and education.

On the local level:

Pueblo County used $420,000 in local cannabis tax revenue to provide college scholarships to 210 local students. 

The Aurora City Council allocated $1.5 million in cannabis tax revenue to fight homelessness. 

The City of Edgewater has used cannabis tax revenue — which accounted for 20 percent of its budget in 2016 — to repave its streets, fix miles of sidewalks, and help fund the construction of a new city complex.

Coffman on States’ Rights 

Washington, D.C.— U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO) released the following statement amid reports the U.S. Justice Department, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is considering a shift on its policy position regarding States marijuana law(s):

"Attorney General Sessions needs to read the Commerce Clause found in Article 1, Section 8 , Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution that limits the power of the federal government to regulate interstate and not intrastate commerce. The decision that was made to legalize marijuana in Colorado was made by the voters of Colorado and only applies within the boundaries of our state. 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" 

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