Cory Gardner and Marijuana: From Anti-Pot Hardliner to Cannabis Crusader

July 25, 2018

Over the last few years, a budding romance has been blossoming between Colorado’s GOP Senator Cory Gardner and marijuana. We’re sure not complaining!

Clearly, cannabis legalization can’t be a single-party issue. Thanks to overwhelming public support that spans the ideological wings of the Left and the Right, it’s not. Pot truly is becoming a bipartisanship issue.

Leading the charge is Colorado’s junior senator Cory Gardner, who has become one of marijuana’s most prominent political figures and supporters. But it wasn’t always so. Cory Gardner and marijuana weren’t always so simpatico. In fact, Gardner used to be an anti-pot hardliner.

But, boy, times sure have changed.

Cory Gardner and Marijuana: From Foe to Friend

Back in 2012, when Coloradans voted on Amendment 64 to legalize recreational cannabis, the Gen X senator staunchly opposed its passage. In fact, when the Obama administration’s Department of Justice implemented the Cole Memo — which protected cannabis businesses from the feds — Gardner wrote a scathing letter to then-President Obama and AG Eric Holder chastising the memo. (Ironically, he would later slam AG Jeff Sessions for rescinding the memo.)

In 2014, as a congressman (not yet a senator) and a member of Colorado’s legislative delegation to the Rohrbacher-Far amendment (the measure that eliminated funds for DEA raids on medical marijuana operations), he and fellow GOP representative Scott Tipton were the only two members of the delegation from Colorado who voted against it. This despite the fact that cannabis had broad support in Colorado and passage of the amendment enjoyed broad bipartisan support with 49 other GOP congressmen voting “yay.”

What a difference a few years makes! Now, Gardner is one of the cannabis industries most influential and powerful pot-supporters in Congress. When notorious pot-hater (“Good people don’t smoke marijuana!”), AG Jeff Sessions announced he would end Obama-era protections put in place with the Cole Memo, Gardner hit back hard! Gardner retaliated by vowing to place “a hold on all DOJ nominees until he received a commitment that Colorado’s rights would not be infringed.”

Gardner Is Trump’s Pot-Whisperer

Clearly, his strategy worked. After holding up roughly 20 Justice nominees, it didn’t take long to persuade President Trump it was in his interest to defy his attorney general, Mr. Sessions. (Given Trump’s notorious contempt for Sessions, Trump undoubtedly got some satisfaction out of pissing off his attorney general.)

Following assurances from POTUS, Gardner put out a statement saying:

"Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states’ rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana...I received a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice’s rescission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado’s legal marijuana industry.”

Gardner added: “Furthermore, President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all. Because of these commitments, I have informed the Administration that I will be lifting my remaining holds on Department of Justice nominees.” Mission accomplished.

Republicans, Defenders of Federalism & States’ Rights? Sometimes.

Republicans regularly tout states’ rights as an essential pillar of federalism. However, most Republicans — with the exception of libertarian-leaning legislators like Sen. Rand Paul, Rep. Justin Amash, Rep. Thomas Massie, Sen. Mike Lee, and of course, California’s Rep. Dana Rohrabacher — don’t have any consistency on states’ rights.

Fortunately, Gardner now fully supports the rights of states to be free from governmental interference. Teaming up with the uber-liberal darling of the #resistance, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, to introduce a bill that would reconcile discrepancies between federal and state cannabis laws, Gardner told Yahoo News:

"[B]asically, this is a states' rights bill. This is a federalism bill that says if a state like Colorado decides to move forward on medical marijuana, recreational marijuana, CBDs ...hemp, that that activity is going to be lawfully, legally carried out."

In this day and age of hyper-partisanship, it’s heartening to see there’s at least one issue Republicans and Democrats can come together on — cannabis! Hey, that’s no surprise to any of us who are fans of the magic herb. We’ve long known cannabis brings people together. Maybe all the gridlock in Washington could be solved if these guys and gals would just shut down the government next 4/20 for a congressional puff, puff, pass sesh! Then we’d see some real bipartisanship!

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