It’s rare to see a Trump administration decision met with wide-spread praise, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement reversing federal policy on states’ marijuana legalization is provoking particular wrath from lawmakers.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) led the charge with an impassioned speech against Sessions’ marijuana policy Thursday, criticizing Sessions for breaking a promise he made before his confirmation as attorney general.
“Then-Sen. Sessions told me that marijuana simply wasn’t going to be on President Trump’s agenda. That it was something that they weren’t going to deal with, that it was something that President Trump simply wasn’t going to focus on,” Gardner said. “That was back in the spring of 2016, and up until 8:58 this morning, that was the policy. One tweet later, one policy later, a complete reversal of what many of us on the Hill were told before the confirmation.”
Sen. Cory Gardner angrily responds to Attorney General Jeff Sessions' memo on marijuana policy. "One tweet later, one policy later, a complete reversal of what many of us on the Hill were told before the confirmation." https://t.co/NkJuIoh4fP pic.twitter.com/J4RZmkVM8U— ABC News (@ABC) January 4, 2018
I am prepared to take all steps necessary, including holding DOJ nominees, until the Attorney General lives up to the commitment he made to me prior to his confirmation.— Cory Gardner (@SenCoryGardner) January 4, 2018
Sessions’ marijuana policy will direct federal prosecutors to enforce federal laws against the drug, even in states where voters and lawmakers have legalized recreational or medical use. Under the Obama administration, the Department of Justice declined to enforce federal drug law against the substance in states that had legalized any kind of marijuana use through a directive known as the Cole Memo.
Sessions’ Justice Department called Thursday’s decision a “return to the rule of law.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) criticized Sessions’ decision on behalf of patients who rely on medical marijuana. Medical use is legal in New York, while recreational marijuana is not.
“What Attorney General Sessions did today was nothing short of an attack on patients,” she said in a video posted on Twitter.
Attorney General Sessions' decision to restrict states’ ability to legalize and decriminalize marijuana is either willfully ignorant of the medical science or an act of greed on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry. In either case, it's an attack on patients, and it's wrong. pic.twitter.com/Kiw8nOmPb7— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) January 4, 2018
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was another Republican lawmaker in a state with legalized marijuana to voice criticism of Sessions’ legal marijuana decision. Many critics of Sessions’ decision pointed to his support for states’ rights on other issues.
“Today’s announcement is disruptive to state regulatory regimes and regrettable,” she said on Twitter.
This move by Sessions on marijuana came the same day Vermont representatives voted to legalize recreational marijuana, sending the proposal to the state senate and Republican governor. As Vermont takes steps to legalize weed, nearly, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) added to the chorus of voices opposing the federal announcement.
No, Attorney General Sessions. Marijuana is not the same as heroin. No one who has seriously studied the issue believes that. Quite the contrary. We should allow states the right to move toward the decriminalization of marijuana, not reverse the progress that has been made.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) January 4, 2018
Meanwhile, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who introduced the Marijuana Justice Act in the Senate to legalize marijuana nationwide, said that “we can’t let this happen.”
“Jeff Sessions wants to open a new front on the failed war on drugs,” Booker said in a video. “I am furious right now. We are at a point in American history where most people understand this enforcement of marijuana laws has violated our principles and our ideals.”
Jeff Sessions is reviving a losing war on marijuana that is devastating low-income Americans & our communities of color and dashing our ideals of equal justice. We can't let this happen.— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) January 4, 2018
That's why I introduced the Marijuana Justice Act to legalize marijuana. Who's with me? pic.twitter.com/OUe10vRbHs