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Sen. Cory Gardner’s feud with Attorney General Jeff Sessions cools

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Monday, Feb. 19, 2018 5:25 PM

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner has released some holds on nominees to the Department of Justice after “positive discussions” with the agency over enforcement of federal marijuana laws.

Gardner, R-Colo., released his holds on the assistant attorney general for national security, U.S. attorneys and U.S. marshals. He will continue blocking other nominees until it is clear the Justice Department will respect Colorado marijuana laws, he said in a call with reporters last Thursday.

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Gardner had been blocking all nominees to the department after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama-era rule, known as the Cole Memo, that gave U.S. attorneys guidelines in deciding how to treat state marijuana laws, prioritizing prosecutions on actions such as providing marijuana to minors.

“Let me be crystal clear: So long as the federal enforcement priorities detailed in the 2013 Cole Memorandum are adequately protected, the DOJ should respect the will of the states who have spoken overwhelmingly on this issue,” Gardner said in a news release. “I will view the DOJ’s failure to do so as a direct contradiction of our positive conversations and will take action accordingly.”

During Sessions’ testimony at his confirmation hearing, he promised Gardner that he would protect the states’ rights to decide marijuana laws. When Sessions decided to overturn the memo, Gardner viewed it as a violation of states’ rights.

During the past two weeks, Gardner met with the attorney general and deputy attorney general. Gardner said he has received assurances that made him feel comfortable making a limited release of blocked nominees. He didn’t discuss what assurances he received.

He said he will continue to block some nominees until he feels the Justice Department has met the assurances he received.

“We’ve had very good, positive conversations about protecting states’ rights and protecting the voters of Colorado’s wishes,” Gardner said.

Andrew Eversden is an intern for The Durango Herald and a student at American University in Washington, D.C.

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