Local officials' message to Sessions: States rights matter

Marijuana presser (Jeff Gillan | KSNV)

With a marijuana business as a backdrop, Congresswoman Dina Titus, D-Nevada, told Washington to keep its hands off our legal pot industry

“We don’t want to see people turned into criminals who are operating legally under state law,” Titus told me, surrounded by marijuana supporters and other local Democrats Thursday afternoon at the Apothecary Dispensary on Flamingo.

Nevada's elected elite welcomed the move by the anti-marijuana Attorney General with either caution, consternation, or condemnation.

RELATED | Nevada marijuana industry fearful of government raids amid fed’s policy change

Thursday, Jeff Sessions rescinded what was known as the “Cole Memorandum,” guidance written during the Obama administration that allowed federal prosecutors to concentrate their resources on more serious crimes, resulting in non-interference with the budding marijuana industry.

“Mr. Sessions and the Department of Justice are reversing a years-long policy of respecting the rights of states in order to take out a personal vendetta on an industry that has sold nearly $130 million worth of product in Nevada and brought in $20 million in tax revenue to the state since July,” said Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nevada.

In a statement, Republican Dean Heller said: "Knowing Attorney General Sessions' deference to state's rights, I strongly encourage the Department of Justice to meet with Governor Sandoval and Attorney General Laxalt to discuss the implications of changes to Federal Marijuana Enforcement Policy."

Democrats were less confident Sessions, known for his strong anti-marijuana position, would take a hands-off position.

“They’re for states’ rights when it’s something they like, and not, when they don’t,” Titus told me.

RELATED | Is marijuana still legal?

Our Democratic Senator, Cortez Masto, says Sessions needs to listen to the will of the people.

“I wasn't a supporter of Question Two but the people of Nevada have spoken, the voters spoke the support recreational marijuana and it's the law,” Cortez Masto said, referring to the initiative allowing recreational use.

In November 2016, Nevada overwhelmingly approved legalization by a 54 to 46 percent margin.

The governor did not support it but promised to listen to the voters.

In a statement Thursday, Gov. Brian Sandoval, R-Nevada, said "I believe Nevada's marijuana industry is a model for other states. My staff and I will review the memo released this morning and our state options."

Nevada’s Republican Attorney General, Adam Laxalt, said today that while he, too, was no fan of Question Two, he has upheld the law Nevada voters approved.

“Since Question 2’s enactment, my office has vigorously defended it against two related lawsuits that threatened to slow or even halt the implementation of the law, and has further assisted with the formulation and adoption of regulations to allow dispensaries to commence sales,” Laxalt said, adding that his office is now evaluating the ramifications of DOJ’s new position.

The stakes in Nevada are huge.

Pot employs 67 hundred people in more than 270 businesses.

The stakes for America are huge.

We're among six states currently allowing both recreational and medical.

21 others allow medical use.

Time for Congress to act says Congresswoman Jacky Rosen, D-Nevada.

“We are going to go back to Washington on Monday we're going to huddle together with those other states ...CA, CO, states that have it legal now and figure out what our next best steps are,” Rosen says.

Campaigns jumped on the marijuana bandwagon today, too. “We cannot and will not stand for this or any other threat by the Trump Administration to undo progress in Nevada,” said a candidate for Governor, Democrat Steve Sisolak.

“Regardless of how you personally feel about marijuana use, the citizens of Nevada have spoken,” said US Senate candidate, Republican Danny Tarkanian.

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