Republicans lash out at Trump administration over marijuana policy change

Alex Wong/Getty ImagesJeff Sessions.
  • The Department of Justice announced a roll-back of marijuana policies to enforce federal law against certain states.
  • Republican lawmakers lashed out over the threat to curb legal marijuana sales and use, which have become increasingly popular in the past several years.

WASHINGTON – Republican lawmakers pushed back on the Trump administration’s decision on Thursday to rescind policies that have allowed the marijuana industry to thrive in certain states over the past several years, citing the federal government’s intrusion on states’ rights.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner immediately threatened the administration if the situation is not rectified.

“I will be putting today a hold on every single nomination from the Dept. of Justice until Attorney General Jeff Sessions lives up to the commitment that he made to me,” Gardner said on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon.

“Then-Senator Sessions told me that marijuana simply wasn’t going to be on President Trump’s agenda, that is was something they weren’t going to deal with, that’s something that President Trump simply wasn’t going to focus on. That was back in the spring of 2016 and up until 8:58 this morning that was the policy,” Gardner added.

“One tweet later, one policy later, a complete reversal of what many of us on the Hill were told before the confirmation,” he continued. “What we had continued to believe the last year and without any notification, conversation, or dialogue with Congress, completely reversed.”

But Gardner was not the only Republican to lash out at the attorney general’s reversal of policy.

Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman said in a statement that “Attorney General Sessions needs to read the Commerce Clause found in Article 1, Section 8 , Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution that limits the power of the federal government to regulate interstate and not intrastate commerce.”

“The decision that was made to legalise marijuana in Colorado was made by the voters of Colorado and only applies within the boundaries of our state,” Coffman added. “Colorado had every right to legalise marijuana, and I will do everything I can to protect that right against the power of an overreaching federal government.”

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz wrote on Twitter that Sessions should “Prosecute Hillary Clinton, not medical marijuana businesses and patients!”

The Trump administration’s move could also hurt the GOP with voters, with whom polling shows a majority support legalization.

Complicating matters, a group of Republicans, along with several Democrats, have already introduced legislation that would exempt patients from federal prosecution for seeking out medicinal marijuana in states where it is legal. In May 2017 letter, Sessions asked Congress for the authority to prosecute users and providers.

However, the DOJ’s latest rule change “simply gives prosecutors the tools to take on large scale distributors and enforce federal law,” according to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

And Sanders dismissed suggestions that Trump reneged on any campaign promises regarding marijuana policy and states’ rights.

“The president believes in enforcing federal law. That would be his top priority,” Sanders said. “And that is regardless of what the topic is whether it’s marijuana or whether it’s immigration, the president strongly believes that we should enforce federal law.”

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