Federal Prosecutor Greenlights Recreational Marijuana in Massachusetts

The federal government plans to intervene in Massachusetts newly-legalized recreational marijuana industry, but only in very specific instances. Federal prosecutor Andrew Lelling greenlighted the industry on Tuesday but also gave a warning as to the actions that could attract federal attention.

Overproduction, under-age sales, organized crime, and interstate transportation of “drug proceeds” were the four areas Lelling said he would target as the top federal prosecutor in the state. Otherwise, said Lelling, his office's resources are primarily dedicated to fighting the opioid crisis.

While organized crime and interstate transportation of money from the marijuana business are straightforward things businesses can avoid, overproduction is a tricky one. Lelling says overproduction can lead to illegal inter-state sales.

Lelling also believes legalization will lead to an increase in underage use, despite the findings in Colorado and elsewhere that show the opposite. He warned prospective businesses that targeting minors would warrant federal prosecution.

In conclusion, Lelling said federal investigators will continue to monitor Massachusetts for any interstate shipments of cash, and state-licensed marijuana retailers that are attached to any such shipment could come under fire. He also addressed the use of the federal banking system, which is still prohibited for legal marijuana businesses.

This week, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission began issuing licenses for retail marijuana shops. The commission has been consulting with Lelling for guidance on creating regulations that would avoid a federal crackdown in their state. Lelling said he cannot “immunize” state residents from federal enforcement, but found no obvious conflicts with the regulations. 

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