STATEMENT: Lt. Governor Newsom on Federal Plans to reverse Marijuana Policy


SACRAMENTO - California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom issued the following statement addressing news reports that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will rescind the Obama-era "Cole Memo", which guided federal enforcement policy on archaic federal marijuana laws.

"Today, Jeff Sessions and the Trump Administration destructively doubled down on the failed, costly and racially discriminatory policy of marijuana criminalization, trampling on the will of California voters and a year-long bipartisan implementation process led by Governor Brown and the California Legislature.

"This position defies facts and logic, threatens the promise of a safe, stable, and legal regulatory framework being pursued by twenty-nine different states, and continues the Trump Administration's cynical war on America's largest state - and its people and progress - through immigration crackdowns, tax increases, climate policy reversals, health care repeals and now marijuana policing.

"It also flies in the face of the overwhelming public opinion of a vast majority of Americans, who support marijuana legalization.

"As it has on other issues, California will stand together to pursue all legal, legislative and political options to protect its reforms and its rights as a state. I call on our federal leaders to move quickly to protect states' rights from the harmful effects of this ideological temper tantrum by Jeff Sessions."

Proposition 64 was passed overwhelmingly in November 2016 by 57%-43%, the largest margin of any marijuana measure in our nation's history. It was largely modeled after the recommendations of the state Blue Ribbon on Marijuana Policy co-convened by Lt. Governor Newsom. He was the highest-ranking public official to support the measure.

Currently, eight states, including California, have legalized responsible adult use of marijuana and 29 states have legalized medical marijuana. A majority of Americans now live in states with some system of legalized marijuana.

This action by U.S. Attorney General Sessions comes four days into California's successful implementation of Proposition 64, which established a comprehensive, strictly-controlled system for tracking and taxing marijuana while starting to undo the harms of marijuana prohibition on impacted communities of color and the environment and funding critical new programs for public health, public safety and youth education.

Since 2014, Congress has approved each year an amendment to stop the Justice Department from intervening in medical marijuana states. A number of prominent Republican and Democratic governors and senators have sent letters to Jeff Sessions requesting that the Justice Department respect states' rights on this issue. President Donald Trump said repeatedly during his campaign that he thought this issue should be left to the states.

Recent reports show that states that regulate marijuana have benefited from a dramatic decrease in marijuana arrests and convictions, as well as increased tax revenues. At the same time, states did not experience increases in youth marijuana use or traffic fatalities.