Rory Savatgy

Massachusetts U.S. Attorney ‘Cannot Provide Assurances’ Cannabis Licensees Won’t Face Federal Prosecution

In a memo dated Jan. 8, the U.S. Attorney in Massachusetts, Andrew E. Lelling, said he cannot “provide assurances that certain categories of participants in the state-level marijuana trade will be immune from federal prosecution.”

“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.” – U.S. Attorney Lelling in a memo

The memo comes less than a week after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he was rescinding the federal cannabis industry protections outlined in the 2013 Cole Memo, issued by former Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole. Lelling indicated that “people and groups” had sought additional guidance as Massachusetts regulators move forward implementing rules for the state’s voter-approved adult-use cannabis program.

“Our priority has always been to protect public safety and develop regulations that are compliant with all laws including those passed by the voters and the legislature legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in the Commonwealth. As for as the mandate and the work of the Cannabis Control Commission is concerned nothing has changed.” – Statement from Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission

Sessions, in his memo rescinding the Cole Memo protections, said “prosecutors should follow the well-established principles that govern all federal prosecutions.”

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