- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Governors from four states that have legalized marijuana urged the Trump administration Monday to leave existing federal policies alone amid lingering uncertainties surrounding the future of dozens of recreational and medical pot programs currently in place.

“As governors of states that have legalized marijuana in some form, we ask the Trump administration to engage with us before embarking on any changes to regulatory and enforcement systems,” the governors of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington wrote Monday in a letter addressed to the heads of the Justice and Treasury departments.

At the heart of the governors’ letter is the so-called Cole Memo, a 2013 Justice Department memorandum that outlines the federal government’s priorities regarding marijuana enforcement and essentially provides a framework for states to have their own weed laws without triggering federal intervention.

Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington were the first states in the nation to legalize marijuana, and 28 in all have implemented laws allowing for adults to consume cannabis for medical or recreational purposes. President Trump’s pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has indicated he holds a drastically different opinion on marijuana, however, raising concerns in recent weeks that prompted Monday’s letter.

“The balance struck by the [Cole Memo] has been indispensable ― providing the necessary framework for state regulatory programs centered on public safety and health protections,” the four governors wrote.

“We understand you and others in the administration have some concerns regarding marijuana,” they added. “We sympathize, as many of us expressed apprehensions before our states adopted current laws. As governors, we have committed to implementing the will of our citizens and have worked cooperatively with our legislatures to establish robust regulatory structures that prioritize public health and public safety, reduce inequitable incarceration and expand our economies.”

Overhauling existing federal policy, however, “is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences” such as diverting the states’ thriving marijuana industries toward the black market, they wrote.

On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, legislation introduced in the House and Senate last week aims to rein in the federal government’s pot prohibition and let states with existing weed program in place operate to the same degree as other legal businesses.

Fifty-seven percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana, according to the results of a government-sponsored opinion poll published last week.

Mr. Sessions isn’t one of them, however. Speaking on the topic last month, Mr. Sessions said he thought medical marijuana “has been hyped, maybe too much,” and called pot “only slightly less awful” than heroin.

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