Mateusz Perkowski/Capital Press
SALEM — Gov. Kate Brown wants President Donald Trump to assure her that Oregon’s legal cannabis industry is safe from federal prosecution.
The president reportedly made a deal last week with a Republican senator from Colorado to protect the legal cannabis industry there, but it’s not clear whether it extends to Oregon.
Trump told U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner that he would support “a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all,” according to Gardner’s office.
In return, Gardner promised to stop blocking the White House’s Department of Justice nominees.
There’s long been dissonance between federal drug laws and those of states that have legalized marijuana, but the withdrawal of previous Justice Department guidance on the issue — known as the Cole memo — has prompted more uncertainty around the issue in recent months.
That memo from the Obama administration set out guidelines for federal prosecutors in states that had legalized marijuana to focus their resources on larger-scale concerns such as trafficking as long as states met certain conditions regarding their regulation of the industry. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole memo, giving federal prosecutors discretion in pursuing drug cases.
According to Gardner, the president said that the rescission of the Cole memo “will not impact Colorado’s legal marijuana industry.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during a press conference Friday that Gardner’s statement was “accurate” and that Trump was a “firm believer” in states’ rights.
The White House press office did not respond to a request for clarification on the matter late Friday.
Brown, a Democrat who has been vocal in her opposition to many of the Trump administration’s policies, said in a written statement Friday that she would “appreciate” assurances from the president.
“We have not had similar negotiations, but would appreciate President Trump extending his assurances to all states that he respects their rights to decide how to approach this issue, not just to Colorado,” Brown said. “I remain committed to keeping cannabis in the state of Oregon, but out of the hands of children, while protecting the will of Oregonian voters, who overwhelmingly support the legal cannabis industry and the jobs it creates.”
Members of Oregon’s congressional delegation took to Twitter on Friday to call for addressing the issue in Congress, including Democratic U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and Democratic U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer.
“The federal government must respect the decision Oregonians made at the polls,” Wyden wrote on Twitter. “I’m going to keep fighting to protect Oregon’s legal marijuana program and pushing for national reform.”
“We can’t take anything for granted,” Blumenauer said in a Twitter post. “Trump changes with the wind & GOP leadership is still in our way. We need to protect the integrity of state-legal marijuana programs by acting NOW.”
The Capital Bureau is a collaboration between EO Media Group and Pamplin Media Group.