Pubdate: Mon, 29 Jan 2018
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 2018 Globe Newspaper Company
Author: Andy Metzger


Governor Charlie Baker plans to meet with US Attorney Andrew Lelling
next month, and the governor thinks state and federal law enforcement
priorities could converge on cracking down on the illicit marijuana

At the state level, where marijuana has been legalized for medical and
other uses, stamping out the black market trade could bolster the
regulated sale of the intoxicant, the governor said.

"Once we have a regulated legal market here we should want to
prosecute and go after people who continue to engage in this product
illegally. If you talk to the folks in Colorado, they'll tell you that
one of their big problems is they still have an enormous black market,
and some of that black market's being supported by some of the legal
market, and I think one of the things we should make sure is that the
legal market is the market," Baker told co-hosts Jim Braude and
Margery Eagan during his regular "Ask the Governor" segment on WGBH

A big unanswered question for Massachusetts policymakers and pot
purveyors has been whether Lelling will prosecute businesses that sell
marijuana in the state-regulated system. While saying he has limited
resources to fight illegal activity, Lelling threw a curveball into
the market this month when he noted cultivation, distribution, and
possession is a federal crime, and said he can't assure immunity to
anyone in the state-level marijuana trade.

Responding to a caller who asked about medical marijuana, Baker said
he doesn't foresee a clash between federal and state officials.

"I think this is something we should be able to come up with some kind
of general sense about," Baker said. "I am actually optimistic that
this won't become a huge . . . fight between the states and the
federal government."

Lelling has refused to rule out prosecuting anyone engaged in the
marijuana business and said he cannot meet with the Cannabis Control
Commission, but he has made clear that policing opioid traffic is a
far greater concern.

"On the one hand, marijuana cultivation and trafficking is
unambiguously illegal under federal law. It just is," Lelling told
reporters last Wednesday. But "the number one enforcement priority for
my office is the opioid crisis. As I pointed out to someone the other
day, 2,100 people in Massachusetts were killed by opioid overdoses
last year, not marijuana overdoses. So that is where my resources are
going right now. And that's really the best I can say. What I can't do
is in advance say that a category of people working in the state of
Massachusetts with marijuana are immune from federal

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Massachusetts voters
legalized medical marijuana at the state level in 2012 and legalized
the retail sale for adults in 2016. State-regulated sales of marijuana
for non-medical purposes are expected to start this summer.

Massachusetts is one of several states where marijuana has been made
legal. US Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the start of the year
announced a new stance toward state-regulated marijuana, rescinding an
old policy of essentially looking the other way.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt