US senator gives ground in fight over Sessions Memo, marijuana policy

Just Released! Get realistic market forecasts, state-by-state insights and benchmarks with the new 2024 MJBiz Factbook member program, now with quarterly updates. Make informed decisions.

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner was “ending” his holds on government nominees over the Sessions Memo, and that those nominees were judicial. The senator has lifted most – but not all – of the holds as part of negotiations with the Department of Justice, and the relevant nominees are DOJ appointees, not judicial.

Colorado’s junior senator, Republican Cory Gardner, blinked first in a standoff with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

According to the Denver Post, Gardner said he will stop blocking appointees from the Department of Justice in retaliation for Sessions’ revocation last month of several nonbinding cannabis-related policy memos.

But according to a press release from Gardner’s office, the senator will continue to block other DOJ nominees “as discussions continue.”

After the Sessions Memo roiled the MJ industry, Gardner delayed confirmation votes on more than two dozen appointees for posts as U.S. marshals and U.S. attorneys. Gardner’s press secretary, Casey Contres, said there are currently three nominees still being blocked, and that number will likely increase as more appointments are made by Sessions.

Gardner’s political pushback stemmed from his belief that states should be left to their own devices on marijuana legalization and regulation.

“The DOJ should respect the will of the states who have spoken overwhelmingly on this issue,” Gardner said in the release. “While I have decided to lift my holds on these specific nominations, I will continue to lead a bipartisan group of colleagues to find a legislative solution. I remain optimistic that we will come to an agreement with the DOJ soon.”

What remains unclear, however, is what will happen to the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, which is the only legal roadblock in Sessions’ way if he hopes to begin prosecuting state-licensed medical cannabis companies.

The amendment is set to expire March 23 unless Congress acts to extend it again.

Gardner is one of 18 U.S. senators who recently signed a letter urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to work to formally protect states’ rights when it comes to cannabis regulations.