54 lawmakers send letter urging Trump to restore Obama-era pot guidelines

A group of lawmakers led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., sent a letter to President Trump on Wednesday urging him to restore Obama-era guidelines that allowed states to determine their own marijuana laws.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memorandum, a 2013 directive from the Obama administration that directed U.S. attorneys to place a “low priority” on enforcing federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized pot. To date, nine states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington) and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing for the recreational use of marijuana. Dozens more have passed laws legalizing it for medicinal use.

Sessions’ decision to rescind the guidelines, the lawmakers said, “will have a chilling effect” in those states.

“This action by the Department of Justice has the potential to unravel efforts to build sensible drug policies that encourage economic development as we finally move away from antiquated practices that have hurt disadvantaged communities,” reads the two-page letter, which was signed by 54 members of Congress, 51 of them Democrats. Three Republicans — Alaska Rep. Don Young, California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz — signed it, too.

RELATED: Marijuana in Colorado

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Marijuana in Colorado
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Marijuana in Colorado
KITTREDGE, CO - MARCH 9: Scott Hello ties limbs of a High CBD hemp plant up to help sustain vertical growth at Ambary Gardens in Kittredge, Colorado on March 9, 2016. Arvada has approved a hemp growing operation for cultivation of CBD oil. A surprising move as Arvada has declined to license recreational or medical marijuana shops. (Photo by Seth McConnell/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
KITTREDGE, CO - MARCH 9: An employee displays trimmed bud from a High CBD hemp strain at Ambary Gardens in Kittredge, Colorado on March 9, 2016. Arvada has approved a hemp growing operation for cultivation of CBD oil. A surprising move as Arvada has declined to license recreational or medical marijuana shops. (Photo by Seth McConnell/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 26: John Fritzel owns four marijuana businesses. He was on the grass couch at Buddy Boy Brands in Denver on Friday, February 26, 2016. He is one of the top businessmen in the marijuana industry in Denver. (Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon/ The Denver Post)
A pedestrian crosses a street in downtown Pueblo, Colorado, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. About 938 dispensaries, which outnumber Starbucks in Colorado, in 2015 yielded $135 million in state taxes and fees, 44 percent more than a year earlier. Yet as the market enters its third year after voters legalized retail sales in 2012, officials question whether the newfound income outweighs the escalating social costs. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Marijuana plants grow in a greenhouse at the Los Suenos Farms facility in Avondale, Colorado, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. About 938 dispensaries, which outnumber Starbucks in Colorado, in 2015 yielded $135 million in state taxes and fees, 44 percent more than a year earlier. Yet as the market enters its third year after voters legalized retail sales in 2012, officials question whether the newfound income outweighs the escalating social costs. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Marijuana plants grow in a greenhouse at the Los Suenos Farms facility in Avondale, Colorado, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. About 938 dispensaries, which outnumber Starbucks in Colorado, in 2015 yielded $135 million in state taxes and fees, 44 percent more than a year earlier. Yet as the market enters its third year after voters legalized retail sales in 2012, officials question whether the newfound income outweighs the escalating social costs. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Manager Ross Phillip stakes marijuana plants in a flower room at the grow facility for Sense of Healing dispensary in Denver, Colorado, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015. The $3.5 billion U.S. cannabis market is emerging as one of the nation's most power-hungry industries, with the 24-hour demands of thousands of indoor growing sites taxing aging electricity grids and unraveling hard-earned gains in energy conservation. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
LOUISVILLE, CO - NOVEMBER 12: Ajoya is a new marijuana dispensary in Louisville, CO and it's interior space offers a new retail experience for customers. The interior was designed by Roth Sheppard Architects. Marty Lucas works the counter as she fills a boutique shopping bag. Photos of the colorful space on Thursday, November 12, 2015. (Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
LEADVILLE, CO - JUNE 12, 2015: Novelty burlap 'marijuana bags' for sale at an antique shop in Leadville, Colorado. The fake bags are sold throughout Colorado where the purchase and use of recreational marijuana is legal. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
FORT LUPTON, CO - JUNE 10: PureVision Technology president Ed Lehrburger dumps a bag of industrial hemp onto a table to show its similarity to marijuana (in look only) on Wednesday, June 10, 2015. PureVision Technology Inc., a Fort Lupton biofuels company that is processing hemp stalks into sugars, lignin, pulp and CBD extracts. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER CO - APRIL 20: Pot smokers partake in smoking marijuana at exactly 4:20 during the annual 420 celebration in Lincoln Park near the State Capitol in Denver, Colorado on April 20, 2015. (Photo By Helen H. Richardson/ The Denver Post)
AURORA, CO - April 23: 'Headband' a strain of Wednesday, April 23, 2015 at Good Chemistry in Aurora, Colorado. The shop which opened in early April is one of many that have popped up in the Aurora over the last six months of beginning of recreational marijuana in the city. (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
A worker at a dispensary handles bags of marijuana delivered by the courier service CannaRabbit LLC in Louisville, Colorado, U.S., on Friday, March 27, 2015. CannaRabbit and peers are rushing in as regional truckers and nationwide haulers United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. steer clear of transporting marijuana on concerns over the lack of nationwide clearance of a practice that is still illegal in most states. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
DENVER, CO - MARCH 11: A sample of marijuana is in a jar, for customer to look at and smell, at Euflora Dispensary in Denver, March 11, 2015. Colorado pot sales soar to record in January, bringing $2.3 million for schools. Around $36.4 million of recreational marijuana was sold this January compared to about $14.69 million sold the same month last year. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - MARCH 11: Robert Grandt works in the grow room at 3D Cannabis Center in Denver, March 11, 2015. Colorado pot sales soar to record in January, bringing $2.3 million for schools. Around $36.4 million of recreational marijuana was sold this January compared to about $14.69 million sold the same month last year. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO. - DECEMBER 06: Beth Bice of Charlotte, NC smokes a joint on the bus during a marijuana tour hosted by My 420 Tours in Denver, CO on December 06, 2014. Bice saw a video advertising the tours and said, 'lets go to Colorado.' She explained, 'Im not a big drinker. So to do this and find people like me it feels awesome. Its a movement, you want to be a part of it. The more and more people that get on board with this, the more and more acceptable it will become. During the day tourists visited La Conte's grow facility, La Conte's Clone Bar & Dispensary, Native Roots dispensary and Illuzions Glass Gallery. (Photo By Craig F. Walker / The Denver Post)
DENVER, CO. - DECEMBER 06: Mike Goldstein of New York, NY photographs himself with plants at La Conte's grow facility during a marijuana tour hosted by My 420 Tours in Denver, CO on December 06, 2014. During the day tourists visited La Conte's grow facility, La Conte's Clone Bar & Dispensary, Native Roots dispensary and Illuzions Glass Gallery. (Photo By Craig F. Walker / The Denver Post)
DENVER, CO - AUGUST 13: Steve Herin, Master Grower at Incredibles, works on repotting marijuana plants in the grow facility on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. Higher than expected demand for marijuana edibles is pushing several Colorado manufacturers, like Incredibles, to expand their operations. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
TELLURIDE, CO - JULY 8, 2014: A sign in the window of one of several medical and recreational marijuana retail stores in Telluride, Colorado, advertises its locally grown products. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JUNE 27: Kayvan Khalatbari is an entrepreneur in Denver. He was photographed on Friday, June 27, 2014 inspecting a strain at Denver Relief. He owns the Sexy Pizza chain, Denver Relief, and founded Sexpot Comedy. He has gained famed by donning a chicken suit (bought online) and mocking Governor John Hickenlooper, for promoting beer but not marijuana. (Denver Post Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon)
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The lawmakers pointed out that as a candidate Trump signaled he would leave marijuana laws “up to the states.”

In October, a Gallup survey found 64 percent of Americans believe marijuana use should be legal — the highest level of public support for the proposal in nearly a half-century.

The letter urged Trump to follow the “will of the voters” and allow states to “provide common sense, responsible regulations for marijuana that balance public health and public safety needs with limited criminal justice resources.”

Polis and Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who threatened to block all nominees to Justice Department posts in response to Sessions’ decision, sent a similar letter to Trump on Jan. 4, the day Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo.

“I’m prepared to hold every Justice Department nominee until Jeff Sessions lives up to what he told me, lives up to his commitment,” Gardner tweeted the same day.

RELATED: Legal recreational marijuana sold in California

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Legal recreational marijuana sold in California
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Legal recreational marijuana sold in California
Customers buy recreational marijuana at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Marijuana is displayed for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A customer browses marijuana products for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Customers queue for recreational marijuana outside the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A customer browses screens displaying recreational marijuana products for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A woman holds marijuana for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Marijuana edibles are displayed for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Eron Silverstein, 51, (R) shops for marijuana at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Marijuana products are displayed for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Customers purchase marijuana at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensary dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana sales in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
People wait in line at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana sales in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
A customer waits at the counter to purchase marijuana as others wait in line at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Andrew DeAngelo (L) and his brother Steve DeAngelo (R), co-founders of Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, celebrate after a ceremonial ribbon cutting on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
An employee hugs a customer as others wait in line at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
An employee finds marijuana for a customer at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Employees wait behind the counter at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, as a large clock counts down to the store's official opening at 6am on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S. January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Different strains of marijuana are seen for sale at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
A couple poses behind a cardboard Instagram frame while waiting in line at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Employees prepare to open at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Steve DeAngelo (C) makes the first legal recreational marijuana sale to Henry Wykowski at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana sales in Oakland, California, U.S. January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Michael Sherman purchases marijuana at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana sales in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
A customer peers at different marijuana strains in a glass case at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Marijuana is seen for sale at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana sales in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
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In an interview with Yahoo News, the Colorado Republican said that, prior to his confirmation as attorney general, Sessions had assured him the Trump administration would not harsh on the state-driven push toward legalization.

“Jeff Sessions told me this wouldn’t be a priority. Jeff Sessions told me the policy would not be reversed, and today Jeff Sessions went back on his word,” Gardner said. “He said, ‘This is just not something that President Trump is focused on.’ And apparently, it’s not just a focus, it’s a primary initiative of the new year.”

A subsequent meeting with Sessions did nothing to assuage Gardner’s concerns.

“The meeting went as I expected it,” Gardner told NBC’s Chuck Todd shortly after his sitdown with Sessions. “He’s going to hold his position for now, I’m going to hold my position.”

“I’m somebody that didn’t support the legalization of marijuana in Colorado,” Gardner said. “But I also think it’s necessary to protect that state decision.”

Last March, a bipartisan group of senators, including Warren and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, asked the Justice Department to uphold the Obama-era policy allowing individual states to determine their own pot laws after then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggested that the Trump administration may press for “greater enforcement” of federal pot laws.

RELATED: Health benefits of marijuana

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Health benefits of marijuana

1. Parkinson's 

Cannabis has been found to help slow tremors and pain in Parkinson's patients. According to Medical News Today, the compounds in marijuana help to "reduce the effects of reduced dopamine in the brain". 

A study conducted by Israeli scientists found smoking marijuana helped reduce these tremors. "We not only saw improvement in tremor in these patients, but also in rigidity and in bradykinesia," said researcher Ruth Djaldetti.

Furthermore, marijuana has been found to slow the progression of Parkinson's because of its antioxidant qualities. 

2. Glaucoma 

The American Academy of Ophthalmology describes glaucoma as a condition in which the optic nerve is damaged over long periods of time. It can limit vision and sometimes lead to blindness. 

The link between glaucoma and marijuana has been studied since the 1970s, as smoking marijuana has been found to lower eye pressure. Doctors are working on ways to elongate the effects of marijuana. 

It has been speculated that smoking the drug can slow the progression of the disease. 

3. Chemo patients

There has been extensive research on the benefits of cannabis and chemotherapy patients. The "wonder drug", as it is hailed, does miracles for cancer patients. 

According to Dr. Donald Abrams, marijuana "is the only anti-nausea medicine that increases appetite.”

The American Cancer Society claims that the drug can also lower pain, reduce inflammation and calm anxieties of not just chemo patients, but patients suffering from a chronic illness or disease. 

Scientists have found that cannabinoids, one of the many chemical compounds found in the plant, can inhibit tumor growth. It was particularly effective in the inhibition of colon cancer. 

4. Alzheimer's

According to an article published by CNN Health, marijuana may be beneficial for Alzheimer's patients. It was found that THC, an ingredient in cannabis, blocks inflammation in the brain and "stimulates the removal of toxic plaque". 

Marijuana has also been used to help dementia patients. Author and doctor David Casarett told CNN, "I spoke to many family members of people with mild or moderate dementia who believed that THC or whole-plant marijuana was effective in alleviating the confusion and agitation that sometimes occurs."

5. Skin Diseases 

It is widely known that marijuana possesses antiinflammatory benefits, helpful to patients who suffer from arthritis and cancer, amongst many others.

A study published by the University of Colorado found that using the drug topically can alleviate pain and "may be effective against eczema, psoriasis, atopic and contact dermatitis. More and more dermatologists are encouraging the use of cannabinoid cream. 

6. Stroke victims 

Cannabis and stroke victims is an interesting topic of study for many researchers, some of whom contend the drug can "shrink" the damaged area of the brain. 

Doctors, who tested the drug on mice, rats and monkeys, believe the chemical "shows promise as a neuroprotective treatment for stroke”, according to the Huffington Post.

7. PTSD

Advocates have argued that marijuana can provide immense relief for patients, specifically veterans, who suffer from PTSD. In states like New Mexico, "medical marijuana is legally prescribed for PTSD". 

A study conducted by the University of Haifa fond that marijuana helped block the "development" and progression of PTSD in rats. But, researchers explain, that there is a critical window of what marijuana can do. 

Interior of room at the clinic
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“We respectfully request that you uphold DOJ’s existing policy regarding states that have implemented strong and effective regulations for recreational marijuana use,” the senators wrote in a letter to Sessions. “It is critical that states continue to implement these laws.”

“When @realDonaldTrump ran for president he said marijuana policies should be left up to states,” Warren tweeted on Thursday. “He should stick to his word and let states implement their own regulations – upending them only creates confusion, and puts our public health & safety at risk.”

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