Pubdate: Tue, 10 Jul 2018
Source: Hartford Courant (CT)
Copyright: 2018 The Hartford Courant
Author: Matthew Ormseth


American Grow Lab employees gather clippings from "mother" plants to
be grown into use for medical marijuana.

American Grow Lab employees gather clippings from "mother" plants to
be grown into use for medical marijuana. (Mark Mirko / Hartford Courant)

The top federal law enforcement official in Massachusetts signaled
Tuesday he would not aggressively prosecute people for using and
selling marijuana -- a federal, if not state crime -- saying that
while he could not "effectively immunize" residents from federal laws
criminalizing the drug, his office was turning its attention to the
state's opioid problem.

Massachusetts legalized recreational cannabis in 2016. From the start,
the drug's nonmedical use existed in a kind of legal twilight --
sanctioned by the state, technically still a federal crime.

July 1, a fated day in Massachusetts for advocates of recreational
marijuana, came and went. The first day that stores were allowed to
sell nonmedical cannabis passed without so much as a joint sold. No
retailers had been licensed, and July 1 turned out much like any other
day since December 15,...

Former President Barack Obama had discouraged Justice Department
officials from enforcing federal laws criminalizing marijuana in
states that had legalized the drug. But current Attorney General Jeff
Sessions, a strong opponent of legal marijuana, announced he was
rescinding the Obama-era guidelines in January, throwing into jeopardy
cannabis markets in states like Colorado that had years ago legalized

Though Massachusetts legalized recreational marijuana in 2016, the
state has yet to set up a retail market. July 1 was the first day
licensed dispensaries were allowed to begin selling cannabis, but the
state had yet to award a license when the day came. The state's
Cannabis Control Commission has since granted one dispensary a
provisional retail license, and another company received licenses to
grow and transport nonmedical cannabis. Retail sales could begin in

Andrew E. Lelling, the U.S. attorney in Massachusetts and an appointee
of President Donald Trump, stressed Tuesday that he has "a
constitutional obligation" to uphold federal laws. But given the
state's opioid epidemic, which "claims thousands of lives in the
Commonwealth each year," Lelling said his office would "most likely"
prosecute Massachusetts residents for just three types of
marijuana-related crimes: selling to minors, overproduction and
organized crime's involvement in the cannabis retail market.

"This list is not exclusive," Lelling said in a news release, "but
only intended to clarify which aspects of the state-level marijuana
industry are most likely to warrant federal involvement." His office
will continue to weigh prosecuting all marijuana-related crimes on a
"case-by-case basis," he added.

Lelling said he was concerned about licensed cultivators growing extra
marijuana and selling it in states where the drug remains illegal. The
sales usually involve some kind of tax fraud to disguise the source of
the cash, he said.

Retailers targeting minors as cannabis consumers was another of
Lelling's concerns. "Study after study confirms that regular marijuana
use is dangerous to adolescent brain development," he said. Those who
target minors for marijuana sales could be prosecuted for federal crimes.

Lelling also warned of interstate, even international, crime groups
becoming involved in Massachusetts' cannabis market, financing their
illegal operations with drug proceeds. He said his office would watch
for bulk quantities of cash flowing in or out of the state, and
monitor the federal banking system.

Despite being legal in Massachusetts, it remains a crime to bring
marijuana purchased there into Connecticut.

"No matter what you choose to do in another state," Kelly Grant, a
spokeswoman for Connecticut state police said earlier this month,
"when you get back to Connecticut, Connecticut law applies in