The Associated Press is reporting that Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans on rescinding the Cole Memo, which has served as protection for state-legal cannabis programs for over four years. The report cites two people with knowledge of the decision. The memo was written by former Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole in 2013 during his tenure under the administration of then-President Barack Obama.
The policy change will likely allow federal prosecutors to determine whether to crack down on state-approved cannabis programs and what resources, if any, to use in prosecution. The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment does prevent the feds from using federal funds to prosecute cannabis crimes in legal states; however, that protection is currently only extended to Jan. 19, included in a temporary spending bill to prevent a government shutdown.
Sessions, who served as top prosecutor in Alabama at the height of the so-called War on Drugs, confirmed last November that the Cole Memo was still the law of the land; however, since his ascent to the top cop role, he has targeted the cannabis industry on numerous occasions. Former Attorney General Eric Holder said during a speech at John Jay College of Criminal Justice that Sessions’ “obsession” with cannabis puts the Justice Department “in a strange place.”
“By rescinding the Cole Memo, Jeff Sessions is acting on his warped desire to return America to the failed beliefs of the ‘Just Say No’ and Reefer Madness eras. This action flies in the face of sensible public policy and broad public opinion. The American people overwhelmingly support the legalization of marijuana and oppose federal intervention in state marijuana laws by an even wider margin. This move by the Attorney General will prove not just to be a disaster from a policy perspective, but from a political one. The American people will not just sit idly by while he upends all the progress that has been made in dialing back the mass incarceration fueled by marijuana arrests and destabilizes an industry that is now responsible for over 150,000 jobs. Ending our disgraceful war on marijuana is the will of the people and the Trump Administration can expect severe backlash for opposing it.” – Erik Altieri, NORML executive director in a statement
Kevin Sabet, president and CEO of anti-cannabis group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, called the announcement a “victory” that is “going to dry up a lot of institutional investment that has gone toward marijuana in the last five years.”
“There is no more safe haven with regard to the federal government and marijuana, but it’s also the beginning of the story and not the end.” – Sabet to the AP
Sessions has not confirmed the report, but an announcement is expected today.