After Attorney Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo in early January, the legal marijuana industry has been left with legitimate uncertainty about how it will affect legalized states around the nation.
Massachusetts has already legalized medical cannabis, and is set to start recreational sales in July. The State Attorney of Massachusetts, Andrew Lelling, recently announced however that he would not “provide assurances that certain categories of participants in the state-level marijuana trade will be immune from federal prosecution.”
Basically, the one person who holds the most power of how weed laws will now go down in Massachusetts isn’t exactly pro-pot.
Last week, the Florida-based company that was handling debit card payments for legal marijuana purchases throughout the state of Massachusetts made an announcement they would be pulling out of the state after Lelling said that he couldn’t guarantee his office wouldn’t not interfere with state-run marijuana businesses.
Lelling believes Sessions’ decision is “a straightforward rule of law issue.” When he announced he couldn’t assure people in the Massachusetts marijuana industry wouldn’t be prosecuted, he made his opinion to uphold federal law quite clear.
“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,” said Lelling. “Deciding, in advance, to immunize a certain category of actors from federal prosecution would be to effectively amend the laws Congress has already passed, and that I will not do.”
It was this that made Florida-based Merchant Services Consulting Group suddenly decide to pull services from the state of Massachusetts. The decision left several dispensaries scrambling to figure out how to take cash-only payments, disrupting the lives of business owners and patients alike in the state.
After the Florida-based merchant pulled out of Massachusetts, State Governor Charlie Baker asked the State US Attorney’s Office to focus on something else aside from marijuana enforcement. Namely opioids.
In a press conference last week, Baker remarked that “the big message to the U.S. Attorney’s office should be: If you have limited resources, let’s focus on the thing that’s killing people every day here in the commonwealth, which is street drugs and fentanyl.” He went on to add that there wasn’t any “any legitimate evidence” he has been presented with that cannabis is contributing to the opioid crisis.”
As Jeff Sessions continues his crackdown on marijuana policy, countless people are left with reservations for what the future holds for legal weed. In Massachusetts, where Lemming is siding with Sessions’ decision, things in the marijuana industry are already feeling the effects.
Federal policy and the opinions of state officials don’t always go hand in hand, however. In this case, the Governor of Massachusetts is urging for Lelling to crackdown on opiates instead of legal cannabis.