In response to the Department of Justice detailing Steve Cook to address marijuana policy, Justin Strekal, Political Director for NORML stated:
“Steve Cook and Jeff Sessions are advocating for the failed policies of the “Just Say No” era — policies that resulted in the arrests of millions of otherwise law abiding citizens who possessed personal use amounts of marijuana. At a time when the majority of states now regulate marijuana use, and where six out of ten votes endorse legalizing the plant’s use by adults, it makes no sense from a political, fiscal, or cultural perspective to try to put this genie back in the bottle. It is high time that members of Congress take action to comport federal law with majority public opinion and the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status.”
The Cole Memo, a Justice Department memorandum, authored by US Deputy Attorney General James Cole in 2013 to US attorneys in all 50 states directs prosecutors not to interfere with state legalization efforts and those licensed to engage in the plant’s production and sale, provided that such persons do not engage in marijuana sales to minors or divert the product to states that have not legalized its use, among other guidelines.
During a Q and A with reporters in Richmond, VA in March, Jeff Sessions said ”The Cole Memorandum set up some policies under President Obama’s Department of Justice about how cases should be selected in those states and what would be appropriate for federal prosecution, much of which I think is valid,”
But while the Justice Department contemplates its next move, state politicians are taking action. Recently, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) and Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) issued a letter to the new U.S. Attorney General and to Secretary of Treasury Mnuchin calling on them to uphold the Obama Administration’s largely ‘hands off’ policies toward marijuana legalization, as outlined in the Cole Memo.
“Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences,” the governors wrote. “Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.”
“Given that Sessions has recently reiterated that the Cole Memo is valid, Steve Cook would be wise to maintain the current interpretation and not interfere with the right of states to set and enforce their own marijuana policies,” concluded Justin Strekal, Political Director of NORML.