By Cynthia H. Coffman,
Cynthia H. Coffman, a Republican, is the attorney general of Colorado. She is also a candidate for governor.
Colorado voters decided in November 2012 that our state constitution should protect legalized retail marijuana. A little more than five years later, I suspect that if we were to put that issue to a vote again, it would pass by even higher numbers. For better or worse, legalized marijuana has become more accepted around the country, with 29 states and the District now having some form of cannabis legalization.
That is why it was surprising to wake up last week to the news that the Justice Department, without advance notice, rescinded the nationwide guidance regarding marijuana enforcement. By rolling back this guidance, including the Cole Memorandum, the Justice Department has left the decision-making up to the 93 U.S. attorneys, creating substantial uncertainty in how the law will be applied from state to state.
Frankly, it is too late for the federal government to step in and dismantle this burgeoning industry.
Despite the decision, I still believe that priorities laid out in the Cole memo are critically important. Those include preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors, preventing criminal enterprises and cartels from using our state’s laws as a cover or pretext for illegal activity and focusing on preventing drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public-health consequences. Those priorities cannot get lost in a political shuffle, and they will continue to be the focus of our efforts in Colorado.
Coloradans would be the first to admit that being a trailblazer in this area has not always been easy. There have been bumps in the road, and there is still work to be done. But our state has taken thoughtful