U.S. Attorney Says No Guarantee He Won't Prosecute Marijuana Cases In Mass.

U.S. Attorney Says No Guarantee He Won't Prosecute Marijuana Cases In Mass.

U.S. Attorney Says No Guarantee He Won't Prosecute Marijuana Cases In Mass.

 

Marijuana plants growing at the Ermont Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Quincy.

W. MARC BERNSAU

IN THIS ARTICLE

By David L. Harris  –  Associate Managing Editor, Boston Business Journal

Jan 8, 2018

Despite the fact that recreational marijuana is legal in Massachusetts, newly appointed U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said Monday that he can't guarantee that anyone involved in the state-level marijuana trade will be immune from federal prosecution.

"I understand that there are people and groups looking for additional guidance from this office about its approach to enforcing federal laws criminalizing marijuana cultivation and trafficking," said Lelling in a statement. "I cannot, however, provide assurances that certain categories of participants in the state-level marijuana trade will be immune from federal prosecution."

Lelling said that this "is a straightforward rule of law issue. Congress has unambiguously made it a federal crime to cultivate, distribute and/or possess marijuana. As a law enforcement officer in the Executive Branch, it is my sworn responsibility to enforce that law, guided by the Principles of Federal Prosecution. To do that, however, I must proceed on a case-by-case basis, assessing each matter according to those principles and deciding whether to use limited federal resources to pursue it."

A 16-year veteran of the Justice Department, Lelling last week was thrust to the forefront as the state works to implement a 2016 voter law that legalized marijuana for adult consumption when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessionsannounced the end of a previous federal policy instructing U.S. prosecutors not to interfere with legal and regulated marijuana markets established by individual states.

Sessions said the Justice Department will leave decisions about enforcement of federal marijuana laws to individual U.S. attorneys in states that have legalized pot and set up regulatory structures for its use.

Last Thursday, the group of advocates behind the successful 2016 ballot initiative legalizing recreational marijuana commended the U.S. attorney for the legal pot state of Colorado, Bob Troyer, for saying his office would not alter its enforcement priorities in response to Sessions' decision last week.

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