Three days after California legalized the use of recreational marijuana, Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday indicated he intends to reverse an Obama-era federal policy that discouraged federal prosecution of the drug in states where it was legal.
Lawmakers in states that have legalized the drug for medical and/or recreational purposes reacted negatively to the news, many of them calling out Sessions’ inconsistency on states’ rights.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), whose state legalized recreational use of the drug in 2012, called out the attorney general in a fiery speech on the Senate floor Thursday, claiming Sessions has gone back on a private assurance he gave before his confirmation at the Justice Department.
Gardner also railed against the Trump administration’s habit of making drastic policy changes on a dime.
“One tweet later, one policy later ― a complete reversal of what many of us on the Hill were told before the confirmation,” he said. “Without any notification, conversation or dialogue with Congress, completely reversed.”
“This must be left up to the states,” Gardner had tweeted earlier, adding that he is “prepared to take all steps necessary,” including holding up Justice Department nominees, until Sessions stands down.
Colorado has so far collected over half a billion dollars in cannabis tax revenue. The funds have become essential for lawmakers as they seek to patch holes in the state budget.
Other lawmakers ― Democrats, Republicans and independents alike ― also reacted negatively to Thursday’s news. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) called Sessions’ act “disruptive” and “regrettable”:
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) called it a “direct attack on patients”:
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) pledged to “vigorously defend our state’s laws against undue federal infringement”:
In Massachusetts, which only recently legalized the drug, the state’s Cannabis Control Commission said its role of fulfilling the will of the voters “remains the same.”
In Vermont, where the state legislature is expected to vote early this year to legalize the drug, lawmakers declined Thursday to delay that decision in spite of the news from Washington.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also called out Sessions on Twitter:
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) suggested the Trump administration would do better to focus on the opioid epidemic:
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) also angrily voiced his dissent.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) also called out President Donald Trump for breaking his promise to uphold states’ rights.
Wyden’s colleague, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) went a step further, calling Sessions’ move “perhaps one of the stupidest decisions the Attorney General has made” and noting that it directly contradicts a Trump campaign promise:
Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) also called out Sessions’ hypocrisy on states’ rights:
As did Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.):
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) used the moment to go on the offensive and push for the government to remove marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also echoed the states’ rights line:
As did Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.):
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) said he was taken aback that Sessions would make such a move “after refusing multiple requests” to meet with state officials there:
And Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) reminded everyone that Sessions’ decision will ultimately hurt people of color the most: