Washington, D.C.- A bill to work around the move by Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ move to rescind the Cole Memo has been announced in Congress.
The bipartisan “Sensible Enforcement of Cannabis Act” was introduced by House members Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Lou Correa (D-CA). If passed, the bill would closely resemble the Cole Memo and would set up protections for cannabis industry members and consumers abiding by state law from federal prosecution.
“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,” Correa said in a statement. “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,” he continued.
Though a mass crackdown on state cannabis markets has not yet materialized, many are worried Sessions has now made that scenario a possibility. Without the Cole Memo, federal agents could target businesses and cannabis users even if they are acting in accordance with state law since cannabis is still a Schedule I narcotic.
Gaetz agreed with the intent and spirit of the Cole Memo but thought it felt short since it was not an act passed by Congress.
“We are a nation of laws, not department-wide memos. We should not tell prosecutors to ‘pick and choose’ what laws to uphold,” he said. “When federal law conflicts with state laws and the will of the American people, it’s time to change the laws.”
Sessions has earned a reputation for being staunchly against marijuana legalization. He once said “good people don’t smoke marijuana” and even linked cannabis with “more violence than one would think.” Recently, he has made claims that identify marijuana as a contributing factor for the opioid crisis.
It has been an eventful week for federal cannabis policy. Federal courts fielded opening arguments in two separate cases challenging the Trump administration’s handling of cannabis law. In one case, multiple plaintiffs seeking to legalize the use of cannabis for medical ailments are suing the federal government categorizing cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic. Drugs in this category are deemed “to have no medical value.” In another case, plaintiffs are seeking clarification on the legality of hemp-derived CBD.