Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in an attempt to stifle the cannabis legalization movement by repealing the Obama Administration’s Cole Memo (along with the lesser-known Ogden and Wilkinson Memos), has actually energized the reform movement and he is now taking political fire from both sides of the political aisle. One of the AG’s leading critics is fellow republican Dana Rohrabacher.
Congressman Rohrabacher, representing Orange County, California, has long been a major proponent of ending marijuana prohibition, and the amendment (formerly Rohrabacher-Farr, now known as Rohrabacher-Bluenauer) that protects medical cannabis patients and providers from federal prosecution bears his name. Representative Rohrabahcer, who I have had the opportunity to meet at a few International Cannabis Business Conference events, answered a few of my questions:
Was there any warning from Jeff Sessions that he intended to repeal the Cole Memo at this time? Do you think that the timing has anything to do with legalization starting in California?
There was no indication that he would do this, this was a desperate attempt for him to appear relevant. As you know, the Cole Memo is just a Memo where Rohrabacher/Farr is the law and the U.S. Attorneys’ and the DOJ are prohibited by law from interfering with a medical cannabis business that is compliant with state law.
Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail that he would leave marijuana laws up to the state. However, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated that Trump supported the enforcement of federal law, whether it be on marijuana or immigration. Has Donald Trump gone back on his campaign promise?
No, that’s why this is “much ado about nothing.” Sarah Huckabee Sanders statement is accurate that Trump supports the enforcement of federal law because the current federal law says “the DOJ is prohibited from using any resources to investigate or prosecute a business that is compliant with state law” There are plenty of operations, including Mexican drug cartels that are in violation of both state and federal law that the Justice Department could focus on.
Colorado Republican Senator Cory Gardner stated on the Senate floor that Jeff Sessions assured him that Trump would adhere to a states’ rights policy on marijuana. In response to Sessions repealing the Cole Memo, Gardner is threatening to hold up DOJ nominees. Do you support this action?
Certainly, I applaud Senator Cory Gardner for his courage as a constitutional conservative to demand an explanation from Jeff Sessions about why he diverted from President Trump’s campaign pledge and to determine if this was something that he did on his own or if this was on direction from the President.
How have your Republican colleagues reacted to Sessions’ move? Doesn’t it hurt the electoral prospects of Republicans in what is expected to be a tough electoral year for the GOP?
Yes, there has been a tremendous reaction from my colleges in the House and Senate. I believe the Washington Post included all of the reaction to this.
Do you think that Session’s move may actually help move Congress on the issue?
Yes, that is the only silver lining in this is that it is drawing tremendous attention to our outdated drug laws.
What are the prospects now to pass the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment to protect medical patients and their providers? What about expanding the amendment or passing a law to protect all state marijuana laws?
Well, first we need to pass another Continuing Resolution or Omnibus Bill and then we begin the work on not only Rohrabacher-Blumenauer, but my stand-alone bill called the “States Rights Bill” that will treat every part of a legal cannabis business like any other business in terms of being able to deduct business expenses, having bank accounts, etc.
What advice do you have for cannabis legalization supporters or just those that support states’ rights in pushing back on federal government interference of marijuana laws?