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Senator to stop blocking some DOJ jobs over pot

  • FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2017 file photo, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington. Gardner used his power as a senator to freeze all nominations to the Department of Justice last month. He made the move after Attorney General Jeff Sessions withdrew Obama-era protections for states like Colorado that had legalized recreational marijuana. Gardner now says there has been enough progress on negotiations over marijuana with the Trump administration that he’s withdrawing some of his holds on nominees. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON >> Colorado’s Republican U.S. senator will stop blocking nominees for some Justice Department jobs over concerns about the marijuana industry, saying today that federal officials have shown good faith in recent conversations on the department’s pot policy.

Cory Gardner used his power as a senator last month to freeze nominations for posts at the agency after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era protections for states like Colorado that have broadly legalized recreational marijuana. It was a dramatic move by a Republican senator against his own party’s attorney general and came after Gardner said Sessions had promised him there wouldn’t be a crackdown. Gardner said he was placing holds on nominees until Sessions changed his approach.

The holds have created friction both with Sessions, who has complained that critical posts are going unfilled, and some of Gardner’s fellow GOP senators who want key law enforcement officials in their states confirmed.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Gardner said Thursday that he’s discussed the issue with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and has been pleased with progress so far. Department leaders have “shown in good faith their willingness to provide what I think will be hopefully the protections we sought, and as sort of a good faith gesture on my behalf I’ll be releasing a limited number of nominees,” Gardner said.

He will release his holds on nominees for U.S. attorneys in a dozen federal districts, U.S. marshals in every district and on John Demers, who was nominated to head Justice’s national security division.

Gardner stopped short of saying Rosenstein offered his assurances that the department would not crack down on the legal cannabis industry, but gave him enough comfort that Colorado’s acting U.S. attorney, Bob Troyer, will continue to focus on prosecuting people acting outside of Colorado’s voter-approved marijuana laws rather than those who follow them. That follows a pledge Troyer made the day Sessions announced his agency’s new marijuana policy.

Gardner will continue to hold the nominations of seven top Department of Justice nominees. He’s also working with a bipartisan group of members of congress to pursue legislation protecting states that have legalized marijuana.

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