Colorado Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Coffman said she learned that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had changed the federal government's policy for handling states that had legalized recreational marijuana at the same time as the rest of us.
“I will say there was no warning,” Coffman said during a news conference Thursday afternoon. “We didn't know this was coming. I don't think the U.S. Attorney's Office knew it was coming either.”
This comes after an Associated Press report surfaced saying that Sessions plans to rescind the Cole memo, an Obama-era Department of Justice policy that allowed states to proceed with the legalized sale of marijuana – as long as they keep pot from crossing state lines, generating profits for cartels or fall into the hands of children.
Sessions' new memo declared the Cole memo immediately void, but didn't offer further guidance about how to proceed – other than to underscore that Congress previously determined “that marijuana is a dangerous drug and marijuana activity is a serious crime.”
It's a move that could pose an existential threat to the multi-billion dollar marijuana industry – one that employs 34,000 people in Colorado.
But despite the seemingly dire implications about what this could mean to the pot business, Coffman had an underlying message during her news conference: don't panic.
“I would encourage people not to freak out – and you can quote me on that,” Coffman said.
Coffman said she doesn't think “there is going to be a significant physical shift in how the marijuana industry or its customer do business,” and that the federal government will mainly focus its effort on the grey and black markets.
She says she disagrees with Sessions' prior assertion that marijuana is comparable to heroin, saying she's watched Colorado's opioid epidemic play out firsthand.
“It is very different from what I've seen regarding legalized recreational and medical marijuana in this state and the approach that has been taken by a majority of operators,” Coffman said.
Sessions' memo means that marijuana enforcement in Colorado largely in the hands of U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer in Colorado.
His office issued a statement Thursday morning saying:
“Today the Attorney General rescinded the Cole Memo on marijuana prosecutions, and directed that federal marijuana prosecution decisions be governed by the same principles that have long governed all of our prosecution decisions. The United States Attorney's Office in Colorado has already been guided by these principles in marijuana prosecutions -- focusing in particular on identifying and prosecuting those who create the greatest safety threats to our communities around the state. We will, consistent with the Attorney General's latest guidance, continue to take this approach in all of our work with our law enforcement partners throughout Colorado.”
Coffman said she spoke to Troyer, and said based on their conversation, she doesn't expect a significant change in how marijuana is enforced in Colorado.
“I don't see sweeps coming, I don't see the department of justice changing its enforcement priorities,” Coffman said.
You can watch her full news conference below: