Tom Thai

Bi-Partisan Legislation Introduced to Protect State-Approved Cannabis Programs

A bipartisan measure to protect state-approved cannabis programs has been introduced in Congress which would, effectively, reimplement the principles of the now-defunct Cole Memo. The legislation, dubbed the Sensible Enforcement of Cannabis Act, was introduced by Democratic California Rep. Lou Correa, Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, and Democratic Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who also serves as co-chair for the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

What the sponsors said:

“To date, eight states have legalized recreational cannabis, and twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia, representing more than half of the American population, have enacted legislation to permit the use of cannabis. Attorney General Sessions’ decision to rescind the ‘Cole Memo’ created great uncertainty for these states and legal cannabis businesses, and put citizens in jeopardy for following their state laws. In my state of California, voters want legal cannabis. It boosts our economy and is a strong medical tool. By 2020, revenues from cannabis sales taxes could reach $1 billion annually for California. This bill will protect California and other states from federal overreach and ensure the will of the American voter is respected.” – Correa in a statement

“The cycle of uncertainty must end. We need permanent protections for state marijuana laws. I’m grateful for the leadership of Reps. Correa and Gaetz as they stand up for the American people, who overwhelmingly want the federal government to stay out of the way.” – Blumenauer in a statement

“In 2013, then-Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole directed all U.S. attorneys to focus their energies on dangerous drug-related crime instead of individual marijuana users. The ‘Cole Memo’ prioritized ending the distribution of marijuana to minors, preventing drugged driving, limiting drug cartels and other serious crime. With a finite number of resources, including law enforcement officers, it was a sensible policy. Unfortunately, it was also bad governance. We are a nation of laws, not department-wide memos. We should not tell prosecutors to ‘pick and choose’ what laws to uphold. When Federal law conflicts with state laws and the will of the American people, it’s time to change the laws. Rep. Correa’s Sensible Enforcement of Cannabis Act does just that, codifying the provisions of the “Cole Memo” into federal law. This bill is a tremendous step forward. It will help the men and women of law enforcement focus on fighting serious crime and will protect medical marijuana patients nationwide. I am proud to support this legislation, and hope that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will see its value and bring it to a vote soon.” – Gaetz in a statement

Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, said the measure would give “peace of mind” to lawmakers and industry stakeholders and “protect state-lawful programs from militant marijuana prohibitionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who rescinded the Cole Memo last month.

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