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The nation's banks are taking on Attorney General Jeff Sessions over pot with a big lobbying push to loosen federal restrictions on the surging legalized marijuana industry.
Emboldened by support from both President Donald Trump and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — two relentless foes on most other issues — top banking trade groups are pressing policymakers to make it easier for their members to serve cannabis businesses that are now legal in states like California and Colorado.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Friday that he missed the invite to recent meetings between President Donald Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) concerning marijuana legislation.
In an interview with Colorado Public Radio, the top cop at the Justice Department was asked whether he was involved in conversations between Trump and Gardner, during which the president reportedly voiced support for legislative efforts to protect states that have legalized from federal interference.
Gardner and Warren’s Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act is a bi-partisan bill. Warren says the proposal is generating enthusiasm across the political spectrum, giving it better odds in the Senate than usual.
Sen. Gardner has even managed to get a statement of support from President Trump. On Morning Joe, Gardner said Trump agreed there was no going back on the issue of legal cannabis. The Washington Post reported that Trump would back legislation like the STATES Act.
On Thursday morning at 10:45 AM ET, U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) will hold a press conference to discuss a far-reaching bill they plan to file to end the federal war on marijuana.
The move comes after Gardner cut a deal with President Trump to support such legislation in exchange for the senator ending a blockade on Justice Department nominees he began in protest of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s decision earlier this year to rescind Obama-era guidance generally protecting state cannabis laws.
Several factors may be at play. Federal marijuana cases have dropped almost 50 percent since 2013—the same year that former U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued a memorandum, colloquially known as the “Cole memo,” to federal prosecutors on marijuana enforcement priorities. The document has generally been interpreted as a message to U.S. attorneys not to prosecute people complying with state cannabis laws.
He may not realize it yet, but U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ opposition to weed could boost cannabis investor wealth.
One particular date stands out as a shining example of Sessions’ impact on cannabis stocks – January 4, 2018.
It was on this very day that Sessions delivered a one-page memo to all attorney generals in the states.
The memo detailed how he repealed all previous guidance regarding cannabis enforcement.
Today, the House appropriations committee for the first time heard and passed language, known as the Joyce amendment, to restrict funding for the Department of Justice to prosecute state-legal medical marijuana programs.
“Today marks a victory for medical marijuana programs and a loss for Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Passage of this amendment through regular order in the appropriations committee represents another big step in the normalization of state level marijuana reform in the Congress of the United States,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal
In the year-and-a-bit since Donald Trump took office, Americans have witnessed a neck-wrenching 180-degree turn on an array of policy topics. One of the biggest has been with regard to drugs.
While the language in the new budget didn't go so far as to protect the use of cannabis beyond medical purposes, the Department of Justice hasn't had that restriction imposed on it since Jeff Sessions took the helm over a year ago. Further, the inclusion of the amendment is a powerful signal that Congress supports the rights of states to regulate and tax cannabis, suggesting that any attempts to interfere at all by the Department of Justice would face political backlash.