Last week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole memo, a guidance for federal prosecution on offenses related to cannabis.
Sessions' Jan. 4 memorandum states that this move is "a return of trust and local control to federal prosecutors who know where and how to deploy Justice Department resources most effectively to reduce violent crime, stem the tide of the drug crisis, and dismantle criminal gangs."
Sessions' act leaves many in politics wondering where states' rights end and medical and recreational users wondering what's next. Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein have tried to shift the language from being a "states' rights issue" to that of "rule of law." Sessions used the phrase three times in the memorandum and Rosenstein repeated it 19 times at a speech to the Palm Beach Forum Club the next day.
The move has divided many within the Republican Party, including miffed Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, who announced that he was willing to hold up Department of Justice (DOJ) nominees until Sessions "[lived] up to the commitment he made to me prior to his confirmation."
In terms of how Sessions' move affects Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee quickly came out after the memo and issued a statement saying, "Make no mistake: As we have told the Department of Justice ever since I-502 was passed in 2012, we will vigorously defend our state's laws against undue federal infringement."
What will be interesting, however, is how different federal attorneys respond. Former U.S. Attorney for Western Washington and new mayor of Seattle Jenny Durkan has stated that she will prohibit police resources from being used to help enforce federal marijuana laws. Eastern Washington, however, falls under interim U.S. Attorney Joseph Harrington, whose office has directed media inquiries to the DOJ's national press office.
In the meantime, it's largely business as usual at shops around the state. ♦