President Trump stunned many backers of legalizing the use of marijuana on Friday, promising a top U.S. Senate Republican he’ll support efforts in Congress to protect states that have legalized cannabis.
The move would defuse a standoff between Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner and the White House over Justice Department nominees. Gardner, who supports Colorado’s right to continue its legal marijuana law, has help up nominees over the issue.
Gardner said in a statement that Trump has supported states’ rights on marijuana all along – but the Justice Department hasn’t gone along with the president. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded a memo, known as the Cole memo, that kept the agency from prosecuting federal marijuana laws in states that have made cannabis legal.
“Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states’ rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana,” Gardner said in a press release issued Friday. “Late Wednesday, I received a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice’s rescission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado’s legal marijuana industry. Furthermore, President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.
“Because of these commitments, I have informed the Administration that I will be lifting my remaining holds on Department of Justice nominees,” Gardner continued. “My colleagues and I are continuing to work diligently on a bipartisan legislative solution that can pass Congress and head to the President’s desk to deliver on his campaign position.”
Some of the first reactions in the states with legal cannabis, while pleased, were also tinged with a bit of skepticism.
“I understand President Trump has offered his support for states to have the right to regulate marijuana and for legislation to enshrine this right in law,” said Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson in a press release. “I am cautiously optimistic that the president appears to have heard the will of the people on this issue. But this president has demonstrated a willingness to go back on his word. Until there is a formal agreement protecting Washington’s well-regulated marijuana industry, I will continue to stand ready to defend it.”