Barr won't 'go after' marijuana companies, he tells Senate panel

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Attorney General nominee William Barr said he disagrees with efforts by states to legalize marijuana but won't "go after" marijuana companies in states that have legalized it based on the Obama administration's policies.

"My approach to this would be not to upset settled expectations and the reliance interests that have arisen as a result of the Cole memoranda," Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee when he was asked about a memo written during President Barack Obama's administration that has since been rescinded. "Investments have been made, so I don't think it's appropriate to upset those interests."

His position could help him garner the vote of Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, who has insisted Barr not interfere with his state's legal marijuana industry. Gardner said Tuesday that he had scheduled a meeting with Barr to discuss the issue.

In 2013, then-Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole released a memo to prosecutors encouraging them not to interfere with state laws legalizing marijuana. That policy was rescinded by ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who vigorously opposed legalizing marijuana.

Barr said he wouldn't pursue companies that comply with their state laws, but said "it's incumbent on the Congress to make a decision" about the drug's legality.

"This is breeding disrespect for the federal law," he said.

"I'm not going to go after companies that have relied on the Cole memorandum," he told Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, who has proposed legalizing marijuana nationwide. "However, we should either have a federal law that prohibits marijuana everywhere, which I would support myself, because I think it's a mistake to back off on marijuana. However, if we want a federal approach, if we want states to have their own laws, let's get there, and let's get there the right way."

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