Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman at the State Supreme Court Chambers at the Colorado State Judicial Building in Denver on Oct. 22, 2015. (Denver Post file)

Colorado AG invites Jeff Sessions to come visit a recreational marijuana state and “see what we have done”

Cynthia Coffman tells Sessions' staff: "Come to the states that have legalized marijuana, particularly Colorado since we have the longest history"

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said she has invited U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions — a vocal marijuana opponent — and his staff to come and see the state’s recreational pot industry.

Coffman told The Denver Post that the invitation was extended during a meeting Wednesday morning in Washington with Sessions’ top staffers.

“I had a meeting there this morning and told them that I thought it was important to come to the states that have legalized marijuana, particularly Colorado since we have the longest history, and to see what we have done,” Coffman said. “They indicated an interest in doing that.”

Coffman, a Republican, is in Washington for a meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General. Sessions spoke to the group on Tuesday, saying he believes drugs are driving the majority of crime and again expressing his opposition to legalized marijuana.

“I’m not sure we’re going to be a better, healthier nation if we have marijuana sold at every corner grocery store,” Sessions said. But, while prior attorneys general have used their appearances before their state counterparts to make policy pronouncements, he offered no details about how he intends to enforce federal anti-pot laws.

Colorado’s marijuana industry has been wary about how Sessions and President Donald Trump’s administration view marijuana and could react.

“The overarching sense that I had was that he was making some broad policy statements,” Coffman said of Sessions’ address, saying it lacked specifics about how he plans to address marijuana.

She said Sessions’ remarks weren’t very different from what White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has said in recent days about marijuana. Spicer told reporters he expects the Department of Justice to increase enforcement of federal laws prohibiting recreational pot, even in states where it’s already legal.

“I don’t think they’ve decided how they are going to approach it or what they might do legally that would be different than the previous administration,” Coffman said. “I just think they are still figuring it out.”

Coffman also told Colorado Public Radio, in response to Sessions’ statements, that: “It sounds like there is room for states to have legalization, but what it seems to portend is the federal government will be at the borders to stop marijuana from crossing state lines.”

The flow of marijuana from Colorado to other states has been a major focus of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in the past year or so. The agency has been working with local authorities to clamp down on marijuana being illegally grown in homes for out-of-state distribution, serving search warrants and seizing large quantities of pot.


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Coffman said she plans to uphold the state’s marijuana laws if there are federal conflicts, but cautioned there could be instances where her office cannot intervene, such as in cases involving specific businesses or individual marijuana users.

“There may be instances where the state doesn’t need that standing but others will,” Coffman said. “The state can’t probably be the party or the plaintiff in all these cases.”

She added: “It’s my plan to uphold Colorado’s constitution and the laws that have been passed.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper, a guest on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, played down the possibility that the Trump administration would take aim at Colorado’s recreational marijuana industry, saying legalization’s inclusion in the state Constitution makes it unclear whether the federal government could shut it down.

“Our voters passed it 55-45. It’s in our constitution,” Hickenlooper told “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd.

“You don’t think it’s clear that the federal government could stop you?” Todd asked.

“Exactly,” Hickenlooper replied.


The Associated Press and Bloomberg contributed to this report.

This story was first published on DenverPost.com