After Jeff Sessions stepped up his attack on state-legal cannabis, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner decided to retaliate by freezing the Trump administration’s Justice Department nominees. It’s now a month into the blockade, and Sessions is steaming.
“It’s just getting to be frustrating!” the attorney general said in a speech to the National Sheriffs Association on Monday. “We’re trying to confirm a number of important component heads at the Department of Justice,” but “we can’t even get a vote!”
After Sessions stepped up his threats against state-legal cannabis by rescinding the Cole memo in early January, Gardner vowed to block Trump administration appointments to the Justice Department. As of last week, he had successfully prevented as many as 11 nominations from going to a Senate floor vote. Sessions said Monday that those positions include the heads of the department’s criminal, civil rights, and national security divisions.
The pressure to move those nominees into their positions increased last week with the resignation of Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the department’s third-ranking official after Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
The candidates are “outstanding nominees”, Sessions added, complaining that Gardner’s blockade was over “unrelated issues.”
“As attorney general, I don’t have the authority to say that something is legal if it’s not legal,” he said.
You can read Sessions’ complete prepared remarks on the Justice Department website or watch the speech on CSPAN. It’s worth watching the video of Sessions’ speech, but mostly to see the look of comic incredulity on his face when he talks about “reversing federal law against marijuana.” Skip to 13:36 or so.
Here’s the section of Sessions’ speech that pertains to cannabis:
Right now, we’re trying to confirm a number of important component heads at the Department of Justice. That includes a new head of our Criminal Division, our Civil Rights Division, and our National Security Division. These are critically important components—and outstanding nominees. Our nominee to lead the National Security Division was approved unanimously in committee. But because of one senator’s concerns over unrelated political issues—like legalizing marijuana—we can’t even get a vote.
I’m Attorney General of the United States. I don’t have the authority to say that something is legal when it is illegal—even if I wanted to. I cannot and will not pretend that a duly enacted law of this country—like the federal ban on marijuana—does not exist. Marijuana is illegal in the United States—even in Colorado, California, and everywhere else in America.
We need our nominees confirmed. Safety and security are just too important.
More than 587,000 Americans were arrested for simple cannabis possession in 2016. That’s more than the number arrested for all violent crimes combined.