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Colorado Caves On Marijuana Clubs Amid ‘Uncertainty in Washington’

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Officials in Colorado are pausing their efforts to open marijuana clubs in the state, arguing pushing expanded pot laws could draw the ire of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Lawmakers in the state were advancing bipartisan legislation that would allow social pot use at private, state licensed marijuana clubs, however, support evaporated due to current uncertainty over federal marijuana policy. Democrat Gov. John Hickenlooper implored lawmakers to kill the legislation in fears it could provoke federal raids under the direction of the Department of Justice, reports ABC News.

Sessions is provoking anxieties within the industry with his harsh rhetoric on marijuana, claiming in February, “there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think, and there’s big money involved.” Lawmakers in the state removed the pot club provisions from the bill Thursday, watering the legislation down to minor regulatory changes in the legal structure of the marijuana industry.

“Given the uncertainty in Washington, this is not the time to be trying to carve off new turf and expand markets and make dramatic statements about marijuana,” Hickenlooper told The Denver Post in March.

Sessions, a stanch opponent of legalization, is currently reviewing the Cole Memorandum, a set of guidelines established in 2013 that direct DOJ to focus marijuana enforcement efforts on violent crimes and distribution in states without legalization laws. Representatives for the Trump administration previously made a distinction between medical and recreational marijuana, signaling a crackdown would focus on the latter.

Some lawmakers in the state, including a Republican, expressed frustration over the state caving to the pressure.

“It only makes sense to allow people to have a place to where they can (smoke marijuana) where it’s controlled and confined,” Republican Sen. Tim Neville said Thursday, according to ABC News. “We have legalized marijuana. Where do we want people to use it if not at home? On the street?”

It is unclear how aggressive the administration will ultimately be on the issue, but officials in states with legal weed want to ensure their voter-approved laws are protected.

Legislation dubbed, “the Sessions safeguard,” passed the Colorado state Senate Wednesday. If federal law becomes adversarial toward recreational marijuana laws, the bill allows for a one-time legal reclassification of pot from recreational to medical, in order to prevent federal seizures in Colorado-based marijuana dispensaries.

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