The business has yet to even start growing in Massachusetts, but already the recreational pot industry faces a new challenge from the state’s top federal prosecutor.
“How are we supposed to deal with this situation,” asked Walpole Police Chief John Carmichael.
This week, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said he could not guarantee that state-sanctioned pot operations would be free from federal prosecution, as they are still in violation of federal law.
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The comments have since left local police departments in a state of confusion, as many have officers who also serve on federal drug task forces.
“That puts us in a really difficult situation,” Carmichael explained. “There’s got to be some standardized approach to how you address it.”
At the state level, Public Safety and Security Director Dan Bennett said state police would not assist federal authorities in enforcing federal law against marijuana dispensaries that are legal under state law.
“I don’t think we are going to see prosecutions,” said Jim Borghesani, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project.
In the coming weeks, Borghesani hopes there will be some type of congressional action to provide protection for shops, similar to protections already in place for medical marijuana dispensaries.
“I’m hoping that a lot of people are looking at this and saying this is a temporary situation,” Borghesani said, “I consider this to be potentially a minor bump in the road.”
Despite the hurdle, the Cannabis Control Commission in the state said this week that it will continue moving forward with plans to create a legal market for the industry.