The People Have Spoken, They Want Marijuana Even if the President Doesn't
Where’s the leadership in this state? The people of Massachusetts voted to legalize marijuana. This decision will be a boon for our economy and will have a significant impact on reducing our swollen prison population. The will of the people has spoken through our democratic process and we have started our legislative process to allow marijuana to be sold in the state.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts disagrees; yesterday morning Andrew Lelling said that he, “cannot provide assurances that certain categories of participants in the state-level marijuana trade will be immune from federal prosecution.” It’s true that only the Congress has the ability to legalize marijuana in all of the United States and until that happens it is a violation of federal law to sell and possess marijuana. However, presidents can instruct the Department of Justice not to prioritize the enforcement of certain laws such as the sale of marijuana - which is what Obama did. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama’s orders, sowing confusion and uncertainty amongst those in good faith starting businesses in compliance with state law.
So now it is up to the discretion of the 93 regional U.S. Attorneys - the individuals who have the responsibility for prosecuting federal crimes. Some U.S. Attorneys have already said that despite Sessions’ memo, they don’t plan to start taking up more marijuana cases. Our U.S. Attorney, Andrew Lelling has frustratingly left it vague whether he plans to start prosecuting marijuana cases again.
That’s bad, but even more alarming is Governor Baker’s tepid response to this.
This issue seems pretty open and shut. The people voted to legalize marijuana and our legislature is translating that into law. Governor Baker controls the state police. He should immediately instruct them not to work with the federal authorities if they go after Massachusetts residents and businesses complying with state law. The state police should enforce Massachusetts’ state law.
Charlie Baker should make it clear whether he stands with Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions, or the people of Massachusetts. The right next step is for him to give clear direction to the state police to not work with federal authorities if they try to ignore the will of Massachusetts voters and renew the failed war on drugs.