Federal Prosecutors Pledge To Crack Down On Oregon’s Glut Of Cannabis Leaking Across State Lines

Photo Credit: Don Ryan

U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams issued a memorandum spelling out five priorities for going after illegal cannabis operations that violate federal laws.

It is the first time a federal law enforcement official in a state with legal cannabis has detailed what crimes the feds will target after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked guidelines that had established similar priorities prior to January.

And the memo, first reported by The Oregonian, says Williams’ first priority is cracking down on the leakage of surplus weed into bordering states where pot is still against the law.

“This will be a top priority until overproduction that feeds exportation of marijuana across Oregon’s borders stops,” the memo says. “Notably, since broader legalization took effect in 2015, large quantities of marijuana from Oregon have been seized in 30 states, most of which continue to prohibit marijuana.”

Oregon’s oversupply of cannabis is notorious: Last fall, licensed growers harvested three times what consumers smoke in a year. That’s led to fears that legal growers will send their product across state lines—feeding into an already vibrant interstate black market.

Williams’ memo says federal prosecutors will will also target keeping weed out of the hands of minors, any crimes that involve violence or firearm violations or organized crime, and cultivation that threatens to damage federal lands through improper pesticide and water usage.

The guidelines emerged from a February summit on cannabis policies where Williams invited state officials to meet with him and hash out the best approach to enforcement.

After U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions repealed the Cole Memo, which explicitly committed the federal government from intervening in state cannabis regulations, some worried that Williams might use his office to go after farmers and distributors who adhered to Oregon’s laws.

Williams’ memo indicates that he has little appetite to do that and would rather use his resources to go after people in violation of both federal and state rules.