Attorney General Jeff Sessions fumed on Monday morning at one of his former Senate colleagues for holding up Justice Department nominees in retaliation for a potential crackdown on recreational cannabis.
Speaking before the National Sheriffs’ Association winter meeting in Washington, Sessions hit out at Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) without mentioning the lawmaker by name.
“It’s just getting to be frustrating,” the top federal prosecutor said. “I gotta tell you.”
Sessions noted how the DOJ was being “blocked” from getting top Deputy Attorney General positions confirmed. The Department’s Criminal Division, National Security Division and Civil Rights Division are all currently without permanent leaders, courtesy of Gardner’s efforts.
“Right now, [because of] one senator’s concerns over unrelated issues, like reversing federal law against marijuana, we can’t even get a vote,” Sessions added.
Last month, the Attorney General reversed an Obama-era order calling on US Attorneys to refrain from enforcing federal marijuana laws in states where it has been legalized for recreational use. Sessions issued the decree just days after California became the eighth state to officially end cannabis prohibition.
Hours later, Gardner lashed out at Sessions and the Trump administration from the Senate floor. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize adult recreational cannabis usage.
“I am obligated by the people of Colorado to take all steps necessary to protect the state of Colorado and their rights,” Gardner said. “And that’s why I will be putting today a hold on every single nomination from the Department of Justice.”
Gardner said that Sessions had privately made a pre-confirmation commitment to not disrupt the states’ rights status quo on marijuana set by the Obama administration.
“The people of Colorado deserve answers,” Gardner added. “The people of Colorado deserve their will to be respected.”
Last week, The Denver Post reported that Sen. Gardner is currently holding up 11 Justice Department nominations and counting.
According to legislative customs, a single United States Senator can place “a hold” on legislation and Presidential nominees, blocking them for an indeterminate period of time.
The Justice Department is currently barred from prosecuting marijuana cases in states that have rolled back prohibition, but only for medicinal purposes. In 2014, Congress first passed the restrictions, the so-called Rohrabacher-Farr amendment.