Politicians Outraged: Sessions Move ‘Trampled the Will of the Voters’

Published on January 4, 2018 · Last updated July 28, 2020
FILE - In a Dec. 2, 2016 file photo, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., listens with Jamie Harrison, back, chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, as Ray Buckley, chair of the party in New Hampshire, speaks during a forum on the future of the Democratic Party, in Denver. Ellison said Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, that he'll resign his seat in Congress if he’s picked as chairman by DNC members at the late February elections. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

This morning brought news that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rescinding the Cole memo, the Obama-era policy that protected US states with legal cannabis from federal prosecution. In the wake of the news, numerous politicians, activists, and industry insiders weighed in via Twitter, interviews, and public statements. Here’s a collection of what’s been said.

Cory Gardner, US Senator from Colorado:

“This reported action directly contradicts what Attorney General Sessions told me prior to his confirmation. With no prior notice to Congress, the Justice Department has trampled on the will of the voters in CO and other states. (President Donald Trump) had it right. This must be left up to the states.”

Gardner tears into Sessions move on Senate floor earlier today: 

Keith Ellison, US Representative for Minnesota:

“The war on drugs didn’t stop drug usage; it just ruined a lot of lives. Jeff Sessions is reviving it because he believes in using the criminal justice system as an instrument of racial and economic control of poor people and brown people.”

Jay Inslee, Washington State Governor: 

“Today’s forthcoming announcement from Attorney General Sessions is the wrong direction for our state. It is also disrespects Washington voters who have chosen a different path for our state. I am especially frustrated that this announcement comes after Sessions has refused offers from Attorney General Ferguson and myself to meet with him to discuss these policies in person, after he has disregarded the input that we and other state leaders have provided to his department.”

Bob Ferguson, Attorney General for Washington State:

“I am disappointed and troubled by reports that AG Sessions plans to abandon the current federal policy on marijuana—a policy that respects states’ rights and focuses federal enforcement on key, shared areas of concern. Over the past year, Sessions has demonstrated a stunning lack of knowledge about our state’s marijuana laws. If reports are accurate, Sessions is changing policy after refusing multiple requests for a meeting from Governor Jay Inslee and myself. I pledge to vigorously defend the will of the voters in Washington State.”

Earl Blumenauer, US Congressman from Oregon:

“This is outrageous. Going against the majority of Americans—including a majority of Republican voters—who want the federal government to stay out of the way is perhaps one of the stupidest decisions the Attorney General has made. One wonders if Trump was consulted—it is Jeff Sessions after all—because this would violate his campaign promise not to interfere with state marijuana laws. It’s time for anyone who cares about this issue to mobilize and push back strongly against this decision.”

Kirsten Gillibrand, US Senator for New York:

“Attorney General Sessions’ decision to restrict states’ ability to legalize and decriminalize marijuana is either willfully ignorant of the medical science or an act of greed on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry. In either case, it’s an attack on patients, and it’s wrong.”

Adam Schiff, US Representative for California:

“As more states, including California, legalize and regulate marijuana, both for medicinal and recreational use, turning back the clock on federal enforcement is a waste of limited resources. I believe the hands-off policy should be reinstated, by Congressional action if necessary.”

Elizabeth Warren, US Senator from Massachusetts:

“The Justice Department’s reckless decision to rescind its policy allowing states to enforce their own drug policies puts our public health and safety at risk. Congress needs to take immediate action to protect state marijuana laws, and the patients that rely on them.”

Ron Wyden, US Senator from Oregon:

“Trump promised to let states set their own marijuana policies. Now he’s breaking that promise so Jeff Sessions can pursue his extremist anti-marijuana crusade. Once again the Trump administration is doubling down on protecting states’ rights only when they believe the state is right. Opening the door to go after legal marijuana businesses ignores the will of the majority of Americans and marks yet another socially unjust and economically backward scheme from this administration. Any budget deal Congress considers in the coming days must build on current law to prevent the federal government from intruding in state-legal, voter-supported decisions.”

Michael Bennet, US Senator from Colorado:

“In rescinding the Cole memo, the Attorney General failed to listen to Colorado, and will create unnecessary chaos and confusion.”

Ted W. Lieu, member of US House of Representatives, from California: 

“AG Jeff Sessions apparently wants to take America back to the 1920s. Prohibition didn’t work then and it will not work now. Congress needs to pass sensible laws to prevent a monumental waste of precious federal resources chasing Americans who use.”

Justin Strekal, NORML political director:

“If the Trump administration goes through with a crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana, they will be taking billions of dollars away from regulated, state-sanctioned businesses and putting that money back into the hands of drug cartels.” —to the Washington Post

Bernie Sanders, US Senator from Vermont:

‏”No, Attorney General Sessions. Marijuana is not the same as heroin. No one who has seriously studied the issue believes that. Quite the contrary. We should allow states the right to move toward the decriminalization of marijuana, not reverse the progress that has been made.”

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Dave Schmader
Dave Schmader
Dave Schmader is the author of the book "Weed: The User's Guide." Follow him on Twitter @davidschmader
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