By Lydia Wheeler – 02/15/18 05:19 PM EST
A bipartisan bill was offered in the House on Thursday seeking to circumvent attempts by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to encourage stricter enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states where the drug is legal.
Reps. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) introduced the “Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act,” which would mirror a Obama-era memo that relaxed enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states where the drug is legal. Sessions rescinded the memo last month.
The lawmakers say their legislation would protect people from being prosecuted for legal medical and recreational marijuana use.
“To date, eight states have legalized recreational cannabis, and twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia, representing more than half of the American population, have enacted legislation to permit the use of cannabis,” Correa said in a statement.
“Attorney General Sessions’ decision to rescind the ‘Cole Memo’ created great uncertainty for these states and legal cannabis businesses, and put citizens in jeopardy for following their state laws,” he said.
In rescinding the 2013 directive from then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole, Sessions did not explicitly call for action, but the move opens the door for federal prosecutors to begin pursuing cases against both businesses that sell weed and residents who use it.
The memo had prioritized other prosecutions ahead of marijuana use offenses.
In a statement, Gaetz called the former memo good policy but bad governance because it was not passed through an act of Congress.
“We are a nation of laws, not department-wide memos. We should not tell prosecutors to ‘pick and choose’ what laws to uphold,” he said. “When federal law conflicts with state laws and the will of the American people, it’s time to change the laws.”