WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner said he plans to press Attorney General Jeff Sessions on federal marijuana policy when the two Republicans meet Wednesday — emphasizing in an interview that he is prepared to block all nominees related to the Department of Justice, including U.S. marshals and U.S. attorneys from other states, if he doesn’t get his way.
The comments build on threats Gardner, R-Colo., made last week following a decision by Sessions to rescind an Obama-era policy that left alone states such as Colorado that legalized marijuana in spite of federal laws against it.
“It’s my job to protect those states’ rights and states’ decisions,” Gardner said. “I would anticipate it being DoJ officials. I would anticipate it being U.S. marshals (and) U.S. attorneys. But the bottom line is (that) this can be solved by the Department of Justice.”
Justice Department officials declined to comment on the upcoming meeting, but congressional aides said if Gardner keeps his vow to block or stall these nominees, then at least two dozen people would be affected, including several high-level positions at the Justice Department.
Senate rules give broad leeway to individual lawmakers who want to put a hold on nominees.
Bypassing a hold takes time and effort and — given [cq comment=”that there’s “]broad support for states’ rights on marijuana — an override may not even be successful in the Senate.
Gardner added that he would stand down if Sessions agreed to change course or reinstate a 2013 decree, called the Cole memorandum, which recommended that federal officials generally steer clear of marijuana enforcement in states where it’s legal.
“They can reverse the decision to rescind the Cole memorandum,” Gardner said. “They could have a new way forward with Jeff Sessions protecting states’ rights.”
If that doesn’t work, Gardner and other Colorado lawmakers are preparing a legislative work-around that would prohibit the Justice Department from spending money on enforcing federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized the drug.
Congress has previously protected medical marijuana, but the latest effort would shield recreational use too.
“It would apply to the funding restriction to commercial marijuana (enforcement), as well as medicinal,” said U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder. “That’s what we’re pushing for.”
I just finished hosting a bipartisan group of Senators on the Justice Department's decision to repeal the Cole memo. We discussed a path forward to respect the will of the people & defend states' rights.
— Cory Gardner (@SenCoryGardner) January 9, 2018