Massachusetts’ new federal prosecutor said on Wednesday he will not rule out prosecuting marijuana businesses in a state that has legalized the drug, but stressed that his focus is on the opioid epidemic.
“The No. 1 enforcement priority for my office is the opioid crisis,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling. “As I was pointing out to someone the other day, 2,100 people in Massachusetts were killed by opioid overdoses last year, not marijuana overdoses.”
Lelling sought to clarify his stance on marijuana prosecutions in the first press conference in his new role after Republican President Donald Trump’s administration rescinded an Obama-era policy easing federal enforcement in states that legalized the drug.
Massachusetts is among nine U.S. states that have legalized recreational marijuana use, which remains illegal under federal law. State voters in 2016 backed an initiative legalizing its recreational use and retail sales could begin later this year.
But on Jan. 4, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a policy put in place under Democratic President Barack Obama that limited enforcement of marijuana laws where the drug had been legalized.
The new policy gave U.S. attorney’s offices discretion in how they enforced the law. Lelling, a Trump nominee who took office in December, said on Jan. 8 he would not promise to refrain from prosecuting state-sanctioned marijuana businesses.
Those remarks worried advocates for Massachusetts’ nascent marijuana industry. Lelling said on Wednesday people “have lost sight a little bit of the prior statements of the office.”
He said the 14 prosecutors he oversees devoted to drug cases were focused on fentanyl and heroin traffickers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says opioids were involved in over 42,000 overdose deaths around the country in 2016.
“That is where my resources are going right now,” Lelling said.
He also said he was open to pursuing cases over corporations’ roles in the opioid epidemic.
Medical marijuana businesses would not be a priority, he said, given a budget rule that prevents the Justice Department from spending funds to interfere with state medical marijuana laws.
But he would not rule out investigating banks that open accounts for marijuana businesses.
“I’m a not a policymaker,” he said. “I just deal with the law as it is. The law as it should be? That’s somebody else.”
(Reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Scott Malone, G Crosse and Frances Kerry)
Paranoid Trump thinks ominous economic signals are a conspiracy to derail his re-election: report
When journalists discuss the state of the U.S. economy and report either good or bad economic news, they view it as doing what they’re getting paid to do. But President Donald Trump takes things personally, including financial reporting — and journalist Maggie Haberman, in an article for the New York Times, describes the ways in which Trump views reports of an economic slowdown as a conspiracy against him.
Haberman reports that according to people who spoken to Trump, the president believes that “forces that do not want him to win” reelection in 2020 “have been overstating the damage his trade war has caused.”
Democrats have a plan to weaponize Trump’s Twitter freakouts — and turn his base against him
According to a report at the Daily Beast, Democratic strategists appear to have found a way to take one of Donald Trump's greatest strengths -- his rampant tweeting to his fans to keep them fired up -- and turn it into a campaign issue that strips away some of those same followers.
Taking aim at Trump's tweets that often dictate the news cycles while also floating policy trial balloons, Democrats hope to match Trump's words with his accomplishments to show that he is all talk -- and no action.
Sanders unveils plan to end cash bail, ban private prisons, and ‘fundamentally transform’ US criminal justice system
"If we stand together, we can eliminate private prisons and detention centers. No more profiteering from locking people up."
Decrying America's status as the "world's leading jailer," Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday released a comprehensive plan to confront the crisis of mass incarceration, end the criminalization of poverty, and dramatically overhaul the U.S. criminal justice system.