Federal Marijuana Crackdown Could Disrupt Budding Industry
Attorney General Jeff B. Session’s decision to more stringently enforce federal marijuana laws earlier this month renders the future of marijuana businesses in Cambridge hazy, local business owners and legislators say.
Sessions issued guidance to United States attorneys last week opening the door for the prosecution of local commercial and medical marijuana businesses, rescinding an Obama-era policy of avoiding prosecution in states where marijuana is legal. Session’s decision comes roughly a year after Massachusetts gave the drug the green light for recreational use—and just days after the first-ever medical marijuana dispensary opened in Harvard Square.
Nathaniel L. Averill, CEO of the new dispensary, Healthy Pharms Inc., said he feels tentatively optimistic for the future of his business as he monitors the developments surrounding Session’s new memorandum.
“For sure we’re concerned,” he said. “But we also think that the state and the people are behind us.”
In a Jan. 4 memorandum sent to all U.S. attorneys, Sessions called on them to enforce the laws enacted by Congress, which have determined that “marijuana is a dangerous drug and that marijuana activity is a serious crime.” The memo announced that “previous nationwide guidance specific to marijuana enforcement is unnecessary and is rescinded, effective immediately.”
Marijuana remains an illegal substance under federal law despite its recreational legalization in eight states, including Massachusetts, and legalization for medical use in over 25 states. Andrew E. Lelling, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, told politicians and businessmen in an official statement Monday that he may begin enforcing federal laws more harshly following Session’s new guidance.
“I understand that there are people and groups looking for additional guidance from this office about its approach to enforcing federal laws criminalizing marijuana cultivation and trafficking,” Lelling wrote in the statement. “I cannot, however, provide assurances that certain