POLITICS
04/13/2018 06:33 pm ET

Trump Promised Senator No Federal Crackdown On Legal Weed, But Who Even Knows

Let's see if Trump keeps his word.

President Donald Trump has assured a top Senate Republican that he will allow states to pursue marijuana laws as they see fit, seemingly bringing an end to tense speculation that his administration could be preparing to mount a crackdown on state-legal cannabis operations.

But not everyone is convinced the president will stay true to his word.

In a statement Friday, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said he and Trump had reached the agreement following the senator’s pledge to block all Justice Department nominees until the president promised not to interfere in Colorado’s legal marijuana industry.

“Late Wednesday, I received a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice’s rescission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado’s legal marijuana industry,” Gardner said in the statement. “Furthermore, President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”

In January, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department had rescinded a series of Obama-era memos that had discouraged federal prosecution of marijuana operations operating in accordance with state law but in violation of federal law, which still considers marijuana a Schedule I substance.

Sessions once said he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “OK until I learned that they smoked pot,” though he later claimed to be joking. 

Although the decision didn’t officially amount to an order to change course, it gave federal prosecutors in legal marijuana states the leeway to clamp down on cannabis. The announcement sparked anxiety in the legal weed industry and reportedly led some larger capital firms to walk back previous financial commitments.

Gardner said he is already set to unfreeze some of Trump’s nominees.

Department leaders have “shown in good faith their willingness to provide what I think will be hopefully the protections we sought, and as sort of a good faith gesture on my behalf I’ll be releasing a limited number of nominees,” Gardner told The Associated Press on Friday.

Despite Trump’s pledge, some are warning he could change his mind.

“This is another head-spinning moment,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said in a statement provided to HuffPost. “We should hope for the best, but not take anything for granted. Trump changes his mind constantly, and Republican leadership is still in our way.”

Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said Sessions’ hiring did not reflect Trump’s promise to protect state’s rights.

“We applaud this commitment from President Trump, who promised during his campaign to take a federalist approach with regard to marijuana policy,” Altieri said in a statement. “That campaign promise was not reflected by Trump’s appointment of longtime marijuana prohibitionist Jeff Sessions to the position of Attorney General or any of the actions that Sessions has taken since becoming the nation’s top law enforcement officer.”

The New York Daily News reported Friday that the Justice Department had not been consulted before Trump made his phone call. 

Matt Ferner contributed to this report.

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