Entrepreneurs looking to enter Massachusetts’ newly minted recreational marijuana market can sleep a bit easier tonight after a statement from U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling (the top federal prosecutor for the state) regarding his enforcement priorities surrounding marijuana sales.

Cannabis and the law
Copyright: jirkaejc / 123RF Stock Photo

As many in the industry are aware, federal prosecutors for years were guided by the “Cole Memo,” which endorsed a hands-off approach to enforcement against businesses operating where marijuana had been legalized under a state-sanctioned program. But this January, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo and issued his own Memorandum instructing federal prosecutors to “follow well-established principles that govern all federal prosecutions” in actions involving cannabis-related businesses.

While this announcement initially sent shockwaves through the industry, we counseled companies to cautiously continue business as usual and keep a lookout for statements from individual U.S. Attorneys regarding their enforcement priorities. Massachusetts got such a statement last week. In his Statement, U.S. Attorney Lelling noted that while he cannot, “immunize the residents of the Commonwealth from federal marijuana enforcement,” his office’s resources will be focused on the following:

(1) unauthorized out-of-state marijuana sales

(2) targeted sales to minors

(3) organized criminal groups which use illicit drug sales to fund their activities

According to MassLive, the Chairman of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, Steven Hoffman, said the statement from the U.S. Attorney was “good news” for the industry and provided “clarity” for businesses entering the market. You can review the full Statement from U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling here.

Joseph McNelis works in Fox Rothschild’s Blue Bell, PA office and focuses his practice on labor and employment matters. Joe also tracks legal developments in the cannabis industry in Pennsylvania and nationwide. Joe can be contacted at 610-397-2332 or jmcnelis@foxrothschild.com.