Pitkin County commissioners add voice to letter to Sessions
January 18, 2018
Pitkin County commissioners joined a group of elected officials from across the country earlier this week when they signed a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging him to respect each state's decision on legal marijuana.
The letter — organized by Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace — specifically addresses Sessions' recent revocation of the Cole Memo, an Obama Administration-era directive that outlines a hands-off approach in legal states as long as certain public safety measures were observed.
"Your decision also created uncertainty for our local governments by leaving federal enforcement decision up to each individual U.S. attorney, resulting in what could be selective and unfair enforcement," the letter states. "Of greatest concern, however, is the sheer confusion felt by local officials who now face governing in a chaotic environment."
The letter came out of a phone call last week that included more than 100 elected officials from across the country, including Florida, Vermont, California and Oregon, according to a note from Pace that accompanied the letter.
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo was another participant in the call, and said the goal was to emphasize states' rights, the will of voters and the need for the federal government "to leave us alone," he said.
"The idea behind the call was to rally and send a clear message from legal states to the Trump administration and Sessions to back off marijuana in these states," DiSalvo said Thursday.
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The inherent conflict between the federal government and states revolves around the fact that marijuana is illegal under federal law.
"This nation's beginnings can be traced to a ragtag bunch of renegades tossing tea into the Boston Harbor because a large, distant government wasn't listening to its populace," the letter states. "In this case, the public wants this decision left up to states and localities."
On Tuesday, Pitkin County commissioners decided to join their colleagues from across the country and sign the letter.
Commissioner Rachel Richards said one of the concerns is that Sessions and the feds could charge a county employee with a crime for doing his or her job in relation to marijuana.
DiSalvo, however, said he doesn't think that is likely. Instead, he thinks that it's more likely that the federal government will, for example, deny grant applications from the county because of its stance on marijuana.
Board Chairwoman Patti Clapper said it's unclear exactly how the federal government will act in legal states, so it was worthwhile for Pitkin County to make its stance known.
"We just need to keep our eyes open and pay attention," Clapper said. "We need to do what we can do to protect our states' rights."