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What Republicans are saying about Jeff Sessions’s war on marijuana

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., left, has been one of the most outspoken proponents of marijuana reform in the Republican caucus. (Lauren Victoria Burke/AP)

The Justice Department announced a rule change Thursday that would pave the way for federal prosecutions of state-legal marijuana growers, sellers and users.

Any federal crackdown on marijuana would face strong pushback: Voters strongly support legal pot, and the industry generates $6.7 billion in annual sales and employs up to 230,000 workers.

While Congress has lagged far behind the public on questions of marijuana policy, numbers like the ones above have won many lawmakers over to reformers' side. Democratic lawmakers have harshly criticized the Justice Department's move, but more surprisingly a number of Republican lawmakers have weighed in with sharp criticism as well.

We have collected responses from Republican Senators, Representatives and Governors below. (If you see more, let us know.)

U.S. Senators

Cory Gardner (Colo.)

“This reported action directly contradicts what Attorney General Sessions told me prior to his confirmation. With no prior notice to Congress, the Justice Department has trampled on the will of the voters in CO and other states.

“I am prepared to take all steps necessary, including holding DOJ nominees, until the Attorney General lives up to the commitment he made to me prior to his confirmation.”

Dean Heller (Nev.)

“Knowing Attorney General Sessions' deference to states' rights, I strongly encourage the DOJ to meet with Governor Sandoval and Attorney General Laxalt to discuss the implications of changes to federal marijuana enforcement policy. I also urge the DOJ to work with the congressional delegations from states like Nevada that have legalized marijuana as they review and navigate the new policy.”

Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)

“Over the past year I repeatedly discouraged Attorney General Sessions from taking this action and asked that he work with the states and Congress if he feels changes are necessary. Today's announcement is disruptive to state regulatory regimes and regrettable.”

Rand Paul (Ky.)

“I continue to believe that this is a states’ rights issue, and the federal government has better things to focus on.”

U.S. Representatives

Mike Coffman (Colo.)

“Attorney General Sessions needs to read the Commerce Clause found in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution that limits the power of the federal government to regulate interstate and not intrastate commerce. The decision that was made to legalize marijuana in Colorado was made by the voters of Colorado and only applies within the boundaries of our state. Colorado had every right to legalize marijuana and I will do everything I can to protect that right against the power of an overreaching federal government.”

Matt Gaetz (Fla.)

“Dear @jeffsessions — Prosecute Hillary Clinton, not medical marijuana businesses and patients!”

Thomas Garrett (Va.)

“My bill, HR 1227 would deregulate marijuana policy by removing federal oversight and empowering the 50 States . . . It has been around for a year now. Congress is TRYING to 'do something.'”

Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.)

“The attorney general of the United States has just delivered an extravagant holiday gift to the drug cartels. By attacking the will of the American people, who overwhelmingly favor marijuana legalization, Jeff Sessions has shown a preference for allowing all commerce in marijuana to take place in the black market, which will inevitably bring the spike in violence he mistakenly attributes to marijuana itself. He is doing the bidding of an out-of-date law enforcement establishment that wants to wage a perpetual weed war and seize private citizens’ property in order to finance its backward ambitions.”


Charlie Baker (Mass.)

“The Baker-Polito administration fully supports the will of the voters and the [Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission]'s mission. The administration believes this is the wrong decision and will review any potential impacts from any policy changes by the local U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

Brian Sandoval (Nev.)

“I believe Nevada's marijuana industry is a model for other states. My staff and I will review the memo that was released this morning and our state options. I look forward to the appointment of the new Nevada United States Attorney and further guidance that will be provided by the Department of Justice.