BOSTON (AP) — Members of Massachusetts’ all-Democratic congressional delegation are faulting U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling for saying participants in the state’s voter-approved marijuana trade could be at risk of prosecution.
Lelling said Monday he “cannot provide assurances that certain categories of participants in the state-level marijuana trade will be immune from federal prosecution” after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions moved to rescind an Obama-era policy that called for non-interference with state-level legal marijuana operations.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren called the actions by Sessions and the Department of Justice “reckless” and said it “disrupts the ability of states to enforce their own drug policies and puts our public health and safety at risk.”
Warren said Congress needs to take immediate action to protect state marijuana laws and the patients that rely on them. In a tweet Tuesday, Warren said she’s working on such legislation aimed at defending the ability of states to enforce their marijuana policies.
Rep. Niki Tsongas said while she didn’t support the 2016 ballot question on marijuana it’s clear that Massachusetts voters support full marijuana legalization.
“As more states make known their support for the use of medical marijuana, or recreational use, Congress is going to have to figure out a way to reconcile state and federal law,” the Lowell Democrat said in statement. Tsongas said she has backed the use of marijuana for medical purposes and decriminalization for minor possession.
Tsongas, who represents the state’s 3rd Congressional District, also said she’s voted for legislation that would require the Justice Department to respect state medical marijuana laws, and has co-sponsored legislation that would protect people who are being prosecuted for violating the federal Controlled Substances Act as long as they were following their own state’s marijuana laws.
Rep. Katherine Clark, who represents the state’s 5th Congressional District, called the comments by Sessions on marijuana prosecutions “an absurd misallocation of already-scant federal resources better spent on providing immediate help for families caught in the grip of the opioid crisis.”
Clark’s comments echo those of Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.
On Tuesday, Baker said that any federal crackdown on the state’s nascent commercial marijuana industry is a misguided use of taxpayer dollars.
“I think the big message to the US attorney’s office should be if you have limited resources let’s focus on the thing that’s killing people here every day in the commonwealth which is street drugs and fentanyl,” Baker told reporters.
In a renewed push to crack down on marijuana, Sessions moved last week to rescind the so-called Cole Memorandum, an Obama-era Justice Department policy that, in general, called for non-interference with legal marijuana operations in states.
Jim Borghesani, a Massachusetts spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, is urging Congress to take action to resolve what he called the “gray area” between federal and state marijuana law.
“Look at Canada — the entire nation is going legal in 2018. They’re not taking a patchwork approach like we are,” Borghesani told reporters Monday. “They’re going to avoid all these problems, the problems that we’re facing right now where you have one policy at the federal level, another policy at the state level and nobody knows what’s going on.”
Eight states, including Massachusetts, have legalized adult use of recreational pot.
Rep. Seth Moulton, who represents the state’s 6th Congressional District, also said that Sessions’ announcement shows how out-of-step the Trump Administration is with the public.
“Voters in my state made a decision to be proactive and move forward to recognize that a prohibition isn’t going to make marijuana go away — we need to regulate it to make it safer,” Moulton said in a statement Wednesday. “That’s what we should be doing for the country, and the Trump Administration should not be trying to drag backwards those of us who are moving forward.”
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