Trump Calls Off Justice Department Cannabis Crackdown


White House officials announced today that President Donald Trump, after recent talks with Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, has personally directed the Justice Department to desist on any potential crackdowns in states with legalized recreational marijuana.

The assurance from Trump could signal that cannabis businesses in states with adult-use legalization may soon be free from the threat of federal raids or prosecution.

Gardner, who is a Republican, has voiced concerns since the January rescission of the Cole Memo, the Obama-era policy that discouraged federal prosecution of legal business activities in states with legal cannabis. The Cole Memo was issued in 2013, not long before Colorado became the first U.S. state with recreational cannabis sale, with other states following in the memo’s wake.

In response to the DOJ’s reversal on the Cole Memo, Gardner successfully froze nominations for open posts at the Justice Department, saying that during confirmation hearings, then-nominee U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had told him Colorado cannabis businesses would not be prosecuted.

Media reports noted Gardner spoke to Trump this week and received assurances federal agencies would not target Colorado’s recreational cannabis industry. Trump reportedly also said he will support state’s rights to set their own policies on cannabis.

“Why is Donald Trump thinking differently than what he promised the people of Colorado in 2016?” Gardner said in a January speech, citing Trump’s reassurance that marijuana was a “state’s rights” issue while campaigning. There are “thousands of jobs at risk, millions of dollars in revenue, and certainly the question of constitutional states’ rights—very much at the core of this discussion.”