Will Federal Authorities Prosecute Legal Medical Marijuana Growers In Ohio

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As of Monday, work has begun inside a Home Avenue building approved for the cultivation of medical marijuana.

Under a law passed early last year, the state intends to have a fully functioning medical marijuana distribution system up and running by September.

24 sites were approved across the state in November, including three in Summit County.

Although medical marijuana has been legalized by the state, under federal law, marijuana of any kind, medical or recreational, is still illegal.

“That would mean that it really wouldn’t matter that Ohio had legalized medical marijuana, because anybody who is engaged in distributing or in possession of marijuana would be subject to federal prosecution,” said University of Akron Law Professor Bill Rich.

Under a memorandum issued by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week, federal prosecutors are encouraged to enforce federal law.

Most of the approved cultivation sites in the state fall in the jurisdiction of the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, Justin Herdman.

Rich says the Attorney General’s memorandum would leave the prosecution of growers in Ohio up to the discretion of Herdman and his counterpart for the Southern District of Ohio.

Fox 8 News contacted Herdman’s office asking his intention to follow the Attorney General’s memorandum and was told “no comment.”

We were referred to another law that was passed in 2014

The “Rohrabacher–Farr amendment” prohibits the justice department from spending federal money to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws.

“The Justice Department has limited resources and you would think that the highest priorities would not be prosecuting people who are engaged in a business that is legal under state law, although not technically under federal law,” said Rich.

Fox 8 also made attempts to contact approved growers to ask how they plan to proceed but those calls were not returned on Monday.

As of Monday all indications are that the enforcement threat will not prevent growers or the state from proceeding with their plans.​