A meeting this week with Attorney General Jeff Sessions has left the governor of the first state to legalize marijuana less concerned over the possibility of the federal government pursuing a war against recreational use.
While Mr. Sessions has hardly been reserved about his opinions on pot, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper told reporters that a face-to-face meeting with the attorney general this week gave him the impression a federal crackdown is far from imminent.
Mr. Sessions “feels strongly” that “more people smoking more marijuana or doing any kind of drugs is unhealthy for the country,” the Democratic governor said in a Wednesday interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Nonetheless, the attorney general indicated his Justice Department is more concerned with going after dangerous substances, according to Mr. Hickenlooper.
“He’s got his hands full with things — heroin, methamphetamines, cocaine — other things are even more significant. But doesn’t mean that he feels in any way that he should be cutting any slack to marijuana,” he told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd after Wednesday’s meeting.
“And he certainly was very direct and clearly said they’ve got a lot of priorities,” the governor continued. “And, at one point, he said, ‘Well you haven’t seen us cracking down, have you?’”
“I interpreted that as he’s got his hands full,” Mr. Hickenlooper added.
Colorado became the first state in the country to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, and the state’s premiere retail pot shops opened its doors to adults in January 2014. Eight other states and D.C. have since passed laws of their own legalizing marijuana.
While the government largely refrained from intervening in states with recreational or medical marijuana during former President Obama’s tenure in office, Mr. Session has repeatedly given cause for concern among the cannabis industry since taking the helm of the Justice Department in February.
Federal law is “not eviscerated because the state ceases to enforce it in that state,” Mr. Sessions said last month.
According to Mr. Hickenlooper, however, Mr Sessions could be coming around. The Justice Department is in the midst of reviewing an Obama-era policy that effectively allows states to operate legal marijuana programs without triggering interference, the so-called “Cole Memo,” and Mr. Sessions described the document during Wednesday’s meeting as “not too far from good policy,” according to the governor’s office.
“[They’re working on] a version of that that makes sense for this administration. We’ll have to see how far they go,” Mr. Hickenlooper told The Denver Post after Wednesday’s meeting.
“That being said, he didn’t give me any reason to think that he’s going to come down and suddenly try to put everyone out of business,” he told Mr. Todd.