Congressmen Gaetz, Curbelo, Correa, & Sanford Hold Special Order on AG Session’s Decision to Rescind the “Cole Memo”
Washington, D.C. — Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-01) last night led a bipartisan Special Order on the House Floor, alongside Reps. Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), Lou Correa (CA-46), and Mark Sanford (SC-01), shedding light on the gravity of Attorney General Jeff Session’s recent decision to rescind the “Cole Memorandum” — guidance to federal prosecutors developed in 2013, which focused federal law enforcement efforts on dangerous and large-scale drug crime, and allowed states with responsible marijuana laws to operate without excessive federal interference.
A video and transcript of Congressman Gaetz’s floor speech can be found below.
It's worth noting so many of the experiences that make up the people that serve in this body come from local government or state legislature or governorships. I'm very proud to have served in the Florida legislature and I know my colleague Mr. Sanford served as the Governor of South Carolina, and we have seen how states can function as the laboratories of democracy.
From time to time, a state may look at another state and say there is a circumstance where they did something right or they have done something where we wouldn’t necessarily agree with, and we can tailor proposals that have withstood review and experiences in other states and try to improve.
That is the great system that our founders promised us that remains guaranteed in our Constitution today. Federalism isn't a notion of how government should run, it is the enduring promise that we have a right to live under today. And so I thank my colleague for reminding the Congress that it is states that are the necessary constituents of federal government, not the other way around.
And it highlights why the decision of the Attorney General to rescind the Cole Memo was so deeply flawed — because it highlights the arrogance of the federal government, that believes its policies should always stand in privacy to innovation to state level. Here that innovation is helping people and that's the point that I would really like stress.
I have met with hundreds of families in the state of Florida and throughout the country who have seen benefits from medical marijuana. This isn't a medical theory or something that people are hopeful for, it has actually created a more meaningful quality of life for American families.
Why wouldn't we be for that? Why wouldn't we want to the champion for a parent to hear their child speak for the first time? Why we wouldn't want to give a grandparent some rest bit who has seizures? Why wouldn’t we want to help a caretaker who might be caring for a parent of their own severing from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or Dementia and see improved research and growing opportunity for progress?
The Attorney General’s decision is a step backward. But it doesn’t have to be. The Trump administration can step forward and fulfill the promise that President Trump made on the campaign trail to respect the rights of states and to have a noninterference policy with medical marijuana. I’ve called on Treasury Secretary to issue guidance and instruction to financial institutions that they will not be prosecuted or harmed or face adverse regulatory action if they continue accept the deposits of medical marijuana companies.
I'm hopeful that the Treasury Secretary has more foresight than we have seen from the Attorney General office and he will provide this guidance. Mr. Speaker, I ask that the President personally engage. I know the President, I know him to be a man of a huge heart that cares about people.
Throughout the family, there is a huge focus on care for the vulnerable and children who have to deal with complex medical issues. I would hope they find it within their hearts to take action on this important issue. Let us not allow Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit progress in American families and in an industries that is growing jobs and developing key innovations that can help people.
Beyond dealing with the rescinding of the Cole Memo, there's broader medical marijuana reform that needs to happen. There's no excuse to maintain marijuana on the list of schedule one drugs. Schedule one is reserved for those drugs that have no medical value. That can't help anyone. That should be subjected to the strictest scrutiny. Not even cocaine is a schedule one drug. I don't even think that some of the drugs that are doing the most harm and causing the most deaths throughout the opioid crisis are all schedule one drugs, but marijuana is?
It is indefensible and it is indicative of a dogma, of a lie that the federal government has told to the American people for a generation. And think of the opportunity if we could come together and make some progress on this issue. Throughout the 115th congress we've had robust opportunities to debate about our discord and disagreement and to discuss issues where perhaps we won't be able to come together as Republicans and Democrats. But this should not be one of those issues.
This isn't partisan. It's not even conservative or liberal. You just have to believe that the role of government isn't to hurt people who are trying to get better, or hurt people who are trying to help others who are trying to get better. We spend way too much time arresting people for marijuana in the first place.
In the year 2015, 643,000 people were arrested for marijuana. That's one person every 49 seconds for a year. 574,000 of these arrests were for possession, not distribution or sale. 40% of all drug-related arrests are for marijuana possession. And this is particularly discriminatory. African-Americans are more than 2 1/2 times more likely to be arrested for possession than whites. Marijuana is a $20 billion industry in this country.
If we allow Attorney General Sessions to have his way, we'll drive that $20 billion into the black markets, into the hands of the money launderers and the cartels, and the consequence will be fewer solutions for patients. Marijuana has shown tremendous promise in the treatment of Alzheimer's, to slow the protein deposits on the brain, for patients with AIDS and HIV, medical marijuana can stimulate appetite, slow muscle wasting syndrome.
It can function as an anti-nausea medicine, and it can reduce peripheral neuropathy. For Arthritis patients there can be a reduction in certain types of symptoms that could clear people's airwaves suffering from debilitating arthritis. For chronic pain, we've also seen very favorable results, for the many millions of Americans dealing with chronic pain who right now are getting prescriptions for opioids.
So many of the prescriptions written for opioids today in America, causing deaths, taking away our children, our aunts and uncles, our parents, could be avoided if we weren't prescribing opioids in the first place and if we had a lower impact alternative like medical cannabis. People with cancer have been given new hope, not only that these symptoms can be relieved through medical cannabis, but that the actual growth of tumors can be slowed.
There's really great research, it has been published by the British journal of pharmacology regarding the anti-tumor properties that medical cannabis can have, but unfortunately that research has to be done in Israel, and in Europe. and in other places in the world, because in this country, we continue to maintain the indefensible policy that no research can reasonably occur on medical can bills.
As a matter of fact, this Attorney General and this Department of Justice has made it impossible to help American families.
I'll conclude with this. I wasn't always a believer in medical cannabis, but I met a girl in my district who was being told by her doctors that she was going to have to saw her brain in half to stop the seizures from firing across. Today that little girl is a medical cannabis patient. She's traded surgeries for softball games. She's traded doctors for dancing lessons. She's brings hugs and hope and joy to our entire community.
It's for her, it's for the millions of Americans benefiting from medical cannabis that I call upon this administration to stop the Attorney General from harming Americans through his repeal of the Cole Memo. With, that Mr. Speaker, I thank my bipartisan group of colleagues who joined me this evening and I yield back the balance of my time.