- The Washington Times - Friday, February 16, 2018

Bipartisan legislation introduced in the House would effectively restore Obama-era marijuana protections recently rescinded by President Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

The Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act offered Thursday would prohibit the Department of Justice from prosecuting individuals for using cannabis in states where its use is permitted under state law, codifying the so-called “Cole Memo” nullified by Mr. Sessions last month.

Authored in August 2013 by then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole, the memorandum advised the Justice Department against enforcing the federal prohibition on marijuana in states with medical or recreational pot laws in place. That memo was rescinded by Mr. Sessions on Jan. 4.

Twenty-nine states and D.C. currently have laws in place allowing the use of medical or recreational marijuana despite the U.S. government’s ban, and the proposed Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act would shield its residents from the wrath of federal prosecutors, according to its sponsors – Reps. Lou Correa, California Democrat; Matt Gaetz, Florida Republican; and Earl Blumenauer, Oregon Democrat.

“Attorney General Sessions’ decision to rescind the ‘Cole Memo’ created great uncertainty for these states and legal cannabis businesses, and put citizens in jeopardy for following their state laws,” Mr. Correa said in a statement.

“We are a nation of laws, not department-wide memos,” said Mr. Gaetz. “When Federal law conflicts with state laws and the will of the American people, it’s time to change the laws.”

“The cycle of uncertainty must end. We need permanent protections for state marijuana laws,” Mr. Blumenauer added.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the nation’s largest cannabis legislative reform group, said the legislation “would give peace of mind to lawmakers, regulators, 149,000 workers and the millions of patients and consumers who are dependent on the normalization of lawful marijuana markets.”

“The most essential component in creating a stable business environment to meet consumer demand is certainty, and that is what states would have with Reps. Correa and Gaetz’s legislation to protect state-lawful programs from militant marijuana prohibitionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said in a statement.

In rescinding the Cole Memo last month, Mr. Sessions called the Obama administration’s policies shielding individuals in legal marijuana states from prosecution as “unnecessary.”

“I cannot and will not pretend that a duly enacted law of this country—like the federal ban on marijuana—does not exist. Marijuana is illegal in the United States—even in Colorado, California, and everywhere else in America,” Mr. Sessions said earlier this week.

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month requested a hearing from panel leadership concerning the Trump administration’s decision to end the Obama-era marijuana policy. Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, has not returned messages regarding their request.

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