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Nevada lawmakers sound off on federal pot policy

File: Cannabis entrepreneurs gathered at the M Resort in hopes of landing big investors. (KSNV)

The Associated Press said Thursday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rescinding an Obama-era policy that had paved the way for legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the country.

The 2013 “Cole Memorandum” discouraged enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states that had legalized the substance, according to the office of Governor Brian Sandoval.

Catherine Cortez-Masto's office said in a statement the Cole Memorandum recommends enforcement of marijuana-related activities be addressed primarily by state regulatory bodies and local law enforcement in states with “strong and effective regulatory systems” already in place.

Governor Brian Sandoval

“Since Nevada voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana in 2016, I have called for a well-regulated, restricted and respected industry. My administration has worked to ensure these priorities are met while implementing the will of the voters and remaining within the guidelines of both the Cole and Wilkinson federal memos. We have been largely successful in these efforts. I believe Nevada’s marijuana industry is a model for other states. My staff and I will review the memo released this morning and our state options. I look forward to the appointment of the new Nevada United States Attorney and further guidance that will be provided by the Department of Justice.”

Attorney General Adam Laxalt

“Although I opposed the Question 2 ballot initiative proposing the legalization of recreational marijuana in Nevada, I also pledged to defend the measure were it approved by the voters. Since Questions 2’s enactment, my office has vigorously defended it against two related lawsuits that threatened to slow or even halt the implementation of the law, and has further assisted with the formulation and adoption of regulations to allow dispensaries to commence sales of recreational marijuana within just six months of the law’s enactment. My office has expeditiously facilitated the implementation of the law in the face of considerable uncertainty about the status of federal enforcement activity.”

Attorney General Adam Laxalt says his office is reviewing the DOJ’s letter and its implications for the state of Nevada.

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto

“Attorney General Sessions says he is a headstrong advocate for states’ rights. However, his decision giving free rein to federal prosecutors to target the cannabis industry in states where voters and legislatures have chosen to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana exposes his hypocrisy. In states like Nevada, voters have spoken loud and clear that marijuana must be regulated and taxed, and that the state should be able to enforce its marijuana laws without federal interference. By rescinding the Cole memo, this administration is trampling on the will of Nevadans and creating unnecessary confusion for our state. I call on the Attorney General to reinstate the memo and work with Congress to ensure we respect the will of states while ensuring prosecutorial resources are used effectively.”

Rep. Dina Titus

“This latest move from Attorney General Sessions and the Trump Administration is a direct attack on the State of Nevada, sovereign tribal governments, and the rights of people in states, tribes, and territories all across the United States,” said Congresswoman Dina Titus, a founding member of the House Cannabis Caucus. “The decision to rescind the Cole and Wilkinson memos undermines Nevada’s $622 million dollar industry, threatens nearly $1 billion in new investments, and jeopardizes thousands of new jobs and more than $60 million dollars in tax revenue for the State. It also targets veterans using medical marijuana to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and children with epilepsy, subjecting them to possible federal prosecution for seeking legal treatments for their ailments. Congress must immediately respond by passing permanent protections like the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act (H.R. 975 Rohrabacher-Blumenauer-Titus).”

Rep. Jacky Rosen

“Nevadans made it clear at the ballot box in 2016 that they support the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes, and their decision should stand,” said Rosen. “Local changes in marijuana policy in recent years have resulted in millions of dollars in new revenue for Nevada’s state budget, thousands of new jobs, and countless medical benefits for Nevadans suffering from PTSD, cancer, and other illnesses. This federal overreach by President Trump’s Department of Justice will create uncertainty and confusion for Nevadans. These reported actions are an insult to Nevada voters, an affront to states’ rights, and a threat to our local economy.”

In 2017, Rosen joined a bipartisan letter calling the House Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee to include language in their 2018 appropriations bill that would bar the Justice Department from prosecuting people who comply with their state’s medical marijuana laws.

Rep. Ruben Kihuen

“Secretary Sessions’ decision clashes with the will of hundreds of thousands of Nevadans and millions of Americans who have voted in favor of marijuana legalization. Mr. Sessions and the Department of Justice are reversing a years-long policy of respecting the rights of states in order to take out a personal vendetta on an industry that has sold nearly $130 million worth of product in Nevada and brought in $20 million in tax revenue to the state since July. This decision will not only impact the marijuana industry and the thousands of jobs it is creating, but it will put at risk a stable source of vital tax revenue for our state.”

State Sen. Aaron Ford

“U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision today to rescind a policy that protects our state’s recreational marijuana industry from overzealous federal intrusion could cost Nevada millions of dollars in revenue, kill jobs, and hurt our schools and local economy. This clear example of federal government overreach is nothing more than an attempt to infringe on our state’s sovereignty and is a direct insult to the Nevadans who voted in favor of a regulated marijuana industry.
“Nevada’s burgeoning marijuana business sector has already created close to 7,000 new jobs and generated $19 million in revenue from marijuana taxes -- millions of which are deposited into the Distributive School Account for our children. As Nevada attorney general, I will do everything within my power to defend our state’s voter-approved and regulated industry and send a clear message to Attorney General Sessions and the Trump Administration that they should stay out of Nevada’s business.”

U.S. Senate Candidate Danny Tarkanian

“Regardless of how you personally feel about marijuana use, the citizens of Nevada have spoken. They voted to not just legalize medical marijuana, but recreational, as well. It’s a decision Nevadans made for the State of Nevada and the federal government needs to recognize and honor our 10th Amendment right to do so."


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