Local Elected Officials Band Together in Response To Jeff Sessions’ Cole Memo Repeal

Local Elected Officials Band Together in Response To Jeff Sessions’ Cole Memo Repeal

In an open letter, 100 signatories from 11 states request a bipartisan marijuana reform task force.

February 1, 2018

Local elected officials from 11 states have joined together to urge the creation of a bipartisan task force on marijuana reform. Today, the group ran a full-page ad in the Washington Times.

Pueblo County (Colorado) Commissioner Sal Pace organized the group, which includes Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman and Maine State Sen. Shenna Bellows, and insisted that the time is now to actively promote a comprehensive national dialogue on marijuana reform. In the group’s letter, the elected officials noted that they are acting together as a reaction to the Jan. 4 Cole Memo repeal by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Much of the letter cites public safety concerns that arise in the wake of the repeal. With no federal guidelines—however thin they may have been—states that have legalized marijuana use are left in a gray area in law enforcement. Businesses suffer, the officials argue and, more to the point, their constituents suffer.

“It’s important that we as elected officials come together and use our collective voice to push back on this issue,” Pace said on a press call on Wednesday. “There are a lot of good advocacy groups out there, and there are industry groups lobbying at the federal level—but there has not been a cohesive voice of elected officials. We, as local elected officials, are severely impacted by this decision as well.”

At the heart of their letter, the signatories ask for a bipartisan and bicameral task force “to explore aligning state and federal law.” They also ask that the DOJ not pursue any overtly marijuana-related prosecutions in states with legal marijuana markets.

Until then, they’ll continue voicing their concern for public safety—in their own communities and in Washington, D.C.

Pace argued that the public sphere must clarify how and when the private sphere may enter into the cannabis space and invigorate it. While public and private investment in Canada is booming right now, the uncertainty around cannabis in the U.S. has kept this patchwork of cultivators and other businesses in bear-market mode. Fewer investments in an emerging market like cannabis, Pace said, translates to fewer investments in safety assurance.

The group plans to pay future visits to Washington, D.C., attempting to connect the federal government to the face of the state-legal cannabis industry.

In Pace’s Pueblo County, for instance, cannabis businesses have worked at the forefront of this legal nexus. Los Sueños Farms, a 36-acre outdoor growing operation, has made southern Colorado a hub of the industry. Starting last year—and in large part because of Los Sueños Farms’ business—Pueblo County became the first government entity to give scholarships for higher education funded entirely by the cannabis industry. That sort of public-private cooperation can have broad social consequences if the federal government were to acknowledge the problems pointed out by Pace’s new group.

“One of the reasons that we decided to organize this letter and to publish this letter and send it off to the attorney general was our concern about the confusion and the chaos being caused by the elimination of the Cole Memo,” Pace said. “The Cole Memo ensured public safety. It set guidelines up. It also allowed for local communities to know exactly what was expected and anticipated out of the federal government."

Top photo courtesy of Adobe Stock