Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., sent the following letter to President Trump this afternoon after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he would repeal the Cole Memo, and target states – like Colorado – that have legalized and regulated marijuana.
Polis, along with three other members of Congress, launched the bipartisan Cannabis Caucus in 2017. The Caucus is a forum for members of the U.S. House of Representatives to discuss, learn, and work together to establish a better and more rational approach to federal cannabis policy.
Polis has been a longtime advocate for updating federal marijuana policy. He has introduced the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. This bill would remove marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug; transition marijuana oversight from the jurisdiction of the Drug Enforcement Agency to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and regulate marijuana like alcohol by inserting it into the section of the U.S. Code that governs “intoxicating liquors.” Last April, Polis drafted an article pleading with President Trump to leave marijuana alone.
The text of the letter is below:
January 4th, 2018
President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500
I request you immediately use your Presidential authority to order your defiant Attorney General to reverse his decision repealing the Department of Justice’s Cole Memo and other related guidance specific to marijuana enforcement. His thoughtless decision undermines you and your rightful position on the legalization of marijuana and is an outrageous attack on states’ constitutional right of self-determination.
His decision will only serve to hurt our country and further damage your credibility as someone who regularly proclaims to care about businesses and people. As the President of the United States, you can stop the Attorney General from undermining your leadership and hurting your popularity. I urge you to maintain your position that the vast majority of Americans share: supporting states’ liberties and allowing businesses to continue to grow.
While the ineffective Attorney General Sessions has often stated his opposition to states’ rights and often spoke of his desire to pursue an antiquated drug enforcement policy, when it comes to the legalization of marijuana, you have shown you are in touch with Americans by consistently saying that states should be the final decision-maker. On October 29, 2015 you stated: “The marijuana thing is such a big thing. I think medical should happen — right? Don’t we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states. It should be a state situation … but I believe that the legalization of marijuana – other than for medical because I think medical, you know I know people that are very, very sick and for whatever reason the marijuana really helps them – … but in terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state.” You compellingly reiterated your position on March 8, 2016 by saying “I think it certainly has to be a state — I have not smoked it — it’s got to be a state decision … I do like it, you know, from a medical standpoint … it does do pretty good things. But from the other standpoint, I think that it should be up to the states.” You also made a great statement on July 26, 2016: “I wouldn’t do that [using federal authority to shut down recreational marijuana], no … I wouldn’t do that … I think it’s up to the states, yeah. I’m a states person. I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.”
The change in policy made by your ineffective Attorney General is a reversal from your original promises. If you do not reverse this action, people will think that your cabinet is acting without your approval. Mr. Sessions has been trying to interfere with states’ rights on marijuana for years and this action is in line with his own agenda, not your stated agenda. His unpopular move would also damage state economies and discourage entrepreneurship – placing some of our innovators behind bars – all while eroding states’ rights. Colorado and 29 other states that have regulated marijuana have proven that allowing responsible adults to legally purchase marijuana gives money to classrooms rather than cartels, including Mexican cartels; creates jobs rather than addicts; and boosts the economy rather than the prison population. Surely you don’t want to help give Mexican drug cartels more cash? Nationally, the legal cannabis industry is projected to create a quarter million jobs by 2020 and recreational sales could climb to $13.3 billion.
In addition to hurting our economy, this change in policy will also hurt our veterans. To demonstrate your stated commitment to veterans and those who are sick, I urge you to reverse this decision. I recently met a highly decorated veteran who sustained injuries after being wounded by a roadside IED while serving in Iraq. His story is a compelling one, not only for his commitment to our nation and personal strength, but also because he chose to cope with his injuries by using medical cannabis instead of opioids, which worked for him with far fewer severe side effects. With the states and federal government seeking ways to combat the growing opioid crisis, there is evidence that medical marijuana could provide part of a solution, and if you stop Sessions, it will help secure your place in history fighting opioid abuse.
I request that you use your position to show your strength and immediately overrule the ineffective Attorney General and reinstate the Cole Memo and other appropriate guidance. I look forward to your response.
Member of Congress
Download the official letter here.