On January 4, 2018, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice will rescind the Cole Memo. In a glorious chorus of dissent, federal and state lawmakers from both sides of the isle had strong words of condemnation for Sessions’ reckless policy shift and outdated, ignorant stance on cannabis. Check out the top 20 responses from national and Hawai‘i lawmakers.


National Stage

“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.” —Oregon Senator Earl Blumenauer (D)

“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.” —U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO)

 “This is a profound misreading of the Constitution, which allows states, not the heavy-handed federal government, to determine such issues. How ironic that the attorney general has long championed states’ rights when it suits other parts of his agenda! More than that, by attacking the clear will of the American people, the attorney general contradicts President Trump’s campaign pledges to leave medical and recreational marijuana questions for the states to decide. By taking this benighted minority position, he actually places Republicans’ electoral fortunes in jeopardy.” —California Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R)

“The Cole memo got it right and was foundational in guiding states’ efforts to regulate the production and distribution of marijuana. Colorado has created a comprehensive regulatory system committed to supporting the will of our voters. We are expanding efforts to eliminate the black market and keep marijuana out of the hands of minors and criminals. Today’s decision does not alter the strength of our resolve in those areas, nor does it change my constitutional responsibilities.” —Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D)

“No, Attorney General Sessions. Marijuana is not the same as heroin. No one who has seriously studied the issue believes that marijuana should be classified as a Schedule 1 drug beside killer drugs like heroin. Quite the contrary. We should allow states the right to move toward the decriminalization of marijuana, not reverse the progress that has been made in recent years.” —U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT)

“Any move by the DOJ to reverse cannabis legalization enacted by citizens across the country will be opposed vigorously by a bipartisan national coalition of local elected officials. A reversal of the sovereign voice of the American public is an assault on the intellect of Americans, an assault on the fundamental tenants of democracy, and an attack on the Constitutional guarantee of states’ rights. That is why I am bringing together local elected officials across the country to demand that Congress act immediately to protect the voice of their constituents and allow states to determine their own fate. The American public has spoken loud and clear that states should have the right to determine their own fate on cannabis.” —Sal Pace, Pueblo County Commissioner and Former Colorado House Democratic Leader

“Reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions will roll back federal marijuana policy are deeply concerning and disruptive to our state’s economy. Over 19,000 jobs have been created by the market Oregon worked carefully to build in good faith and in accordance with the Cole Memorandum. The federal government must keep its promise to states that relied on its guidance.” —Oregon Governor Kate Brown

“Jeff Sessions has destructively doubled down on the failed, costly, and racially discriminatory war on drugs, ignoring facts and logic, and trampling on the will of California voters. Have no doubt—California will pursue all options to protect our reforms and rights.” —California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom

“Denver residents voted overwhelmingly for this and we’ve become an international model for how to do it right. Another example that this admin doesn’t listen, doesn’t pay attention, doesn’t get it.” —Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (D)

“Before I voted to confirm Attorney General Sessions, he assured me that marijuana would not be a priority for this administration. Today’s action directly contradicts what I was told, and I am prepared to take all steps necessary, including holding [U.S. Department of Justice] nominees, until the attorney general lives up to the commitment he made to me prior to his confirmation.” —U.S. Senator Cory Gardener (R-CO)

“The attorney general of the United States has just delivered an extravagant holiday gift to the drug cartels. By attacking the will of the American people, who overwhelmingly favor marijuana legalization, Jeff Sessions has shown a preference for allowing all commerce in marijuana to take place in the black market, which will inevitably bring the spike in violence he mistakenly attributes to marijuana itself. He is doing the bidding of an out-of-date law enforcement establishment that wants to wage a perpetual weed war and seize private citizens’ property in order to finance its backward ambitions.” California Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R)

“Dear Attorney General Jeff Sessions—Let me give you a list of things more important for federal prosecutors and federal law enforcement to pursue other than marijuana: 1. Basically anything.” —California Representative Ted Lieu (D)

“I will fight for businesses that are legally operating in states, contributing to tax bases, & creating jobs. We don’t need a crackdown. We need to protect states’ rights, respect the voice of voters, and pass laws to prevent this from happening again.” —Nevada Representative Dina Titus (D)

“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.” —Oregon Senator Ron Wyden (D)

“I think it’s up to the states. I’m a states person. I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.” —Donald Trump


Hawai‘i Arena

“There is a growing bipartisan group of Senators that is not going to stand by while Jeff Sessions takes us back several generations on marijuana policy.” —U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI)

“This decision reinforces our outdated and destructive policies on marijuana that turn everyday Americans into criminals, tear families apart, and waste billions of taxpayer dollars to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate people for nonviolent marijuana charges. Taxpayer dollars would be better spent tackling the many problems that plague the American people including combating the opioid epidemic, ensuring affordable housing, repairing aging infrastructure, and investing in education, healthcare, veterans’ care, and more.” —Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D)

“This reckless prohibition style decision will destroy small businesses, waste money, and make the opioid crisis worse. It is radical and cruel to send federal law enforcement agents into states to punish small businesses because of old-time Reefer Madness superstition.” —U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI)

“By continuing to pour billions of dollars down the drain with our archaic marijuana policies, we stifle our economy, society, and criminal justice system and leave the people of Hawai‘i and millions more devastated – all for a substance that is far less dangerous and harmful than alcohol. Our laws should accurately reflect scientific consensus – not misplaced stigma and outdated myths about marijuana.” —Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D)

“What a complete waste of time. The state Legislature must explore how to regulate and ensure public safety if Hawaii joins the growing movement of states seeking to generate new revenue to pay for essential government services by legalizing marijuana for recreational use. What we cannot do, is throw uncertainty into a growing market space and leave thousands of legal users and patients in limbo. Congress needs to step up and protect states’ rights on this issue.” —U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI)

“I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which would decriminalize marijuana by removing it from the federal controlled substances list, treating it the same as alcohol and tobacco. Our bipartisan legislation will end this unnecessary and costly debate once and for all by federally decriminalizing marijuana and kick-starting long overdue, common sense criminal justice reform.” —Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D)

Hawai‘i Governor David Ige — Crickets.


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Top 20 Responses To A.G. Jeff Sessions’ Cannabis Policy Shift