In the wake of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to rescind Obama-era guidance that protected legal marijuana businesses, legislators in Massachusetts have introduced a bill that would prohibit state and local police from participating in federal cases against people or licensed operators who follow state marijuana laws. The bill also serves as a response to the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, Andrew Lelling, who declined to ensure that that his office would uphold the will of Massachusetts voters, calling marijuana a “dangerous drug” and refusing to limit potential prosecutions to illicit dealers.
The State Police and the Boston and Worcester Police Departments have indicated that they will not participate in federal interdiction, but other smaller departments may still be tempted by the prospect of receiving unencumbered funds from civil asset forfeitures. This legislation, if passed, will make it much more difficult for federal agents to disrupt state-legal commerce. Representatives Dave Rogers and Mike Connolly introduced the bill, calling it the “Refusal of Complicity Act.” According to Rep. Rogers, “We have a state law, it’s valid, and we think it should be respected. If federal law enforcement has something different in mind, they can use their own resources, because Massachusetts taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay to do something that goes against our laws.”
MPP’s Will Luzier, a leader of the Yes on 4 campaign, helped to conceive the bill. “I think it will help local law enforcement agencies to have clear parameters regarding their involvement with federal actions against lawfully permitted cannabis establishments,” said Jim Borghesani, an MPP spokesman.
On Friday, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker reinforced that Massachusetts will respect the will of Massachusetts voters. In response to Jeff Sessions’ decision to rescind Obama-era rules that protected state-legal marijuana markets, state and local law enforcement officials vowed that they would not raid retail marijuana establishments that were operating in compliance with state law.
Shortly thereafter, Gov. Baker echoed those sentiments, stating, “We have two laws in Massachusetts: One that was passed by voters several years ago around the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries, which are regulated and overseen by the commonwealth, and another law that was passed by the voters in 2016 that requires the state to create a legal infrastructure for recreational marijuana. Those are the laws that state and local law enforcement officials are bound to uphold and that’s what they’re going to do.”
Baker’s statement is important because it represents a sharp break from Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling who said in a statement he couldn’t guarantee that medical marijuana dispensaries, recreational pot shops, cultivators, and customers would be immune from federal prosecution. We applaud Gov. Baker’s statement and his principled stance against Lelling’s regressive direction on legal cannabis that attempts to flout the will of the voters.