Marijuana Legalization Advocates Ask For ‘Clear, Unambiguous Answers’ On Potential Federal Prosecutions In Massachusetts

Photo Credit: Gabrielle Lurie

Advocates who worked to pass the 2016 ballot question legalizing marijuana in Massachusetts are asking the state’s top federal prosecutor for “clear, unambiguous answers” about what he plans to do.

Massachusetts voters backed a ballot question broadly legalizing marijuana, with 53.7 percent voting “yes.”

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who opposes marijuana legalization, last week rescinded a memo that under President Obama allowed states to move towards legalization. Sessions will reportedly leave it up to local US Attorneys to make decisions about prosecutions.

Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.

Andrew Lelling, the US Attorney for Massachusetts, said in a statement last week that his office will “pursue federal marijuana crimes as part of its overall approach to reducing violent crime, stemming the tide of the drug crisis, and dismantling criminal gangs, and in particular the threat posed by bulk trafficking of marijuana, which has had a devastating impact on local communities.”

But marijuana advocates say that statement doesn’t go far enough in explaining his office’s approach to the legal marijuana industry that’s forming in Massachusetts.

A new state agency, the Cannabis Control Commission, is building the framework to oversee Massachusetts retail pot shops, which are slated to open in July 2018.

“Massachusetts voters deserve clear, unambiguous answers from U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling to the following questions: Will your office prosecute businesses granted a license by the Cannabis Control Commission in the areas of cultivation, testing, manufacturing or sales and lawfully operating within all parameters of that license?” Jim Borghesani, who served as the spokesman for the marijuana legalization ballot campaign. “And will your office pursue charges against licensed cannabis businesses lawfully utilizing banking services or the banks lawfully providing those services?

Answers are “essential for Massachusetts voters and for elected officials, the Cannabis Control Commission, state and municipal budget writers, future cannabis industry applicants and investors, and state and local law enforcement agencies,” Borghesani added.

Lelling’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday morning.