Former Donald Trump presidential campaign advisor Roger Stone, is calling on the president to uphold his pre-election promise regarding marijuana legalization as his attorney general appears closer than ever to reining in states with legal weed.
The longtime Republican strategist recently formed a pro-marijuana lobbying group, the United States Cannabis Coalition, and told Forbes on Friday that its main purpose is ensuring the president keeps his campaign promise with respect to legalization, particularly in the face of recent comments courtesy of Attorney General Jeff Sessions suggestions otherwise.
Mr. Stone, 64, told Forbes he was triggered to take action when it appeared as if Mr. Sessions wanted to “turn back the clock to the 70s.”
“Attorney General Sessions has threatened to reverse the Cole Memorandum and I think people who depend on cannabis for medical relief would no longer have access and we would reinvigorate the cartels. That would, in turn, bankrupt a number of states who are getting millions of dollars in revenues from the legal sales and cause the loss of jobs,” Mr. Stone told Forbes.
Written in 2013 by James Cole, the Obama administration’s deputy attorney general at the time, the so-called Cole Memo effectively lets states maintain and operate their own legal marijuana programs without risking interference from the Justice Department as the federal government continues to categorize cannabis as a federally prohibited Schedule 1 narcotic.
Twenty-nine states have passed laws legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, and eight have adopted rules letting adults legally use pot for recreational reasons.
Mr. Trump said on the campaign trail that states should decide their own cannabis laws, and White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said in February that marijuana legalization “is a states’ rights issue.” Uncertainties surrounding the future of the plant’s legal status have lingered in the months since, however, amplified by Mr. Session’s public opposition to legalization.
Federal law is “not eviscerated because the state ceases to enforce it in that state,” Mr. Sessions said in March, and in April he asked the Justice Department to create a task force in charge of reviewing marijuana policies, among other topics.
“You can’t be for states’ rights for transgender bathrooms, abortion and gay marriage, but suddenly say you’re not for states’ rights for cannabis. It’s an inconsistency lost on Jeff Sessions,” Mr. Stone told Forbes.
According to Forbes, Mr. Stone and the U.S. Cannabis Coalition will urge the president to protect states with legal weed laws, remove marijuana from the government’s list of Schedule 1 substances and request funding for research on the plant’s potential benefits.
“He’s interested in what works. He’s a pragmatist.” Mr. Stone said of the president. “I think nothing is out of the question.”
Three out of four adults believe states should be able to implement their own marijuana laws, according to a Survey USA poll commissioned by pro-legalization advocates and released this week. Only 14 percent said the Justice Department should enforce federal laws over state statutes and prosecute marijuana users.
• Andrew Blake can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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