Great news: The White House has confirmed that President Donald Trump promised Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, that he would support legislation that would protect states that have legalized marijuana from a crackdown by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Given Congress’ welcome history of backing states making their own decisions on how to regulate pot, this should remove the uncertainty that’s been hanging over California and other states since January. That’s when Sessions repudiated a policy inherited from the Obama administration that let individual states legalize recreational use without fear of federal intervention. It may also allow the Justice Department and the rest of the federal government to put even more of a focus on America’s real drug crisis — the opioids epidemic — not the one that the attorney general perceives.
Yet given the president’s history of contradicting — even humiliating — top aides like Sessions and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with out-of-the-blue policy pronouncements, it’s difficult to be confident that the White House has finally abandoned Sessions’ reefer madness. Trump has never forgiven the former Alabama senator for his March 2017 decision to recuse himself from any investigation related to Russia and the 2016 presidential campaign. Given the president’s history of belittling Sessions on Twitter, no one would be surprised by the attorney general’s abrupt departure. But if Sessions makes a decision Trump likes — say, hamstringing special counsel Robert Mueller — would his reward be another sharp swing, one back toward pot paranoia? That would also not be a surprise.
Nevertheless, state leaders should presume this is settled and seek federal cooperation in giving the marijuana industry access to banking services. Now that the president has cut Sessions off at the knees, Justice Department officials may be receptive.
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