Suthers sides with Sessions on Federal marijuana enforcement - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Suthers sides with Sessions on Federal marijuana enforcement

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Colorado's former long-time Attorney General, current Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, says Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and other Colorado leaders are out of line in their harsh critique of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision to rescind Obama-era relaxations on Federal marijuana enforcement.  Gardner essentially called Sessions a liar over the policy reversal.

"I think Sessions properly placed the burden on Congress to change the law if they don't like it," Suthers told News 5 on Wednesday.  "I can't understand Congress being outraged," he continued.  "Essentially what they're saying is, 'How dare you, Mr. Attorney General, not prohibit the Department of Justice from enforcing the laws that we passed?'"

Suthers points to the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Gonzales v. Raich, which ruled that Congress could criminalize the production and use of homegrown marijuana, even if individual states approve its use.  Suthers says by rescinding the so-called Cole Memorandum of 2013, which advised U.S. Attorneys to refrain from prosecuting state-licensed marijuana-related businesses, Sessions is "going back to basics."  "What the Obama administration did was say, 'We, as the Executive Branch, are going to prohibit our prosecutors from enforcing laws passed by Congress.' And Sessions says, 'No, that's not the way our system works,'" Suthers said.

On Wednesday, Sen. Gardner said "no consensus or ultimate decision" was reached during an in-person meeting with Sessions and that the two still have "difference of opinion" on the matter.  Suthers told News 5, "I think what happened was the Attorney General reiterated, 'Hey, Senator Gardner, you're asking me to order my department not to enforce the laws you passed.  That's not how it works.  You pass laws, we enforce them.  If you don't want us to enforce the law, change the law.'"

Suthers, who served as Colorado Attorney General from 2005 to 2015 before becoming mayor of Colorado Springs, has long opposed legalization of marijuana and says that black-market marijuana production in Colorado now exceeds regulated production.  "This is a problem that's got to be dealt with and the Federal government is really best able to do that," Suthers said.

Suthers says after Gardner's impassioned speech on the Senate floor January 4, he called Gardner "and suggested that he ought to analyze this more as a lawyer than as a politician."  Suthers says he and Gardner have not spoken since then.

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