Maine’s federal prosecutor says pot charges will be considered on a case-by-case basis

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The U.S. Attorney for Maine said Tuesday that he can’t declare that his office won’t prosecute marijuana possession, but such cases have not been a priority.

Halsey B. Frank said he has been asked about his approach to enforcing federal laws against marijuana possession and use after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions repealed an Obama administration policy that said the federal government would not pursue those cases in most circumstances. The Obama policy was adopted as more states were making the sale and use of small amounts of marijuana legal for recreational or medical purposes.

In Maine, both medical marijuana and recreational use by adults over 21 is legal, although state officials are still working out the details on how to regulate sales of recreational marijuana. Frank’s statement doesn’t provide much clarity for medical marijuana businesses that are already operating, or for the emerging market for recreational marijuana, which has the potential to be a multimillion dollar industry in Maine.

Frank, in a release sent out Tuesday afternoon, said that growing, distributing and possessing marijuana is illegal under federal law and “my job is to enforce federal law, not countermand it.” Frank also said that while he has some discretion in determining whether to prosecute a case, “I do not have the authority to categorically declare that my office will not prosecute a class of crime or persons.”

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In light of Session’s decision, Frank said, his office will operate on a case-by-case basis, balancing the Justice Department’s policies and his office’s resources.

He went on to list the department’s priorities and did not include enforcing marijuana laws among them.

“This office has prioritized the prosecution of cases involving the trafficking of opiates, cocaine, crack and similar hard drugs,” he said. “We have also prosecuted large-scale marijuana distribution organizations and did so even while operating under the recently rescinded DOJ guidance. Prosecution of drug possession cases has not been a priority.”

Halsey Frank

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  • david83272

    So when a legitimate and legal Maine business gets raided by federal agents how are the local cops going to respond if the business owner calls 911 to say they are under attack?

    • MaineCWP

      Article VI, Paragraph 2 of the U.S. Constitution is commonly referred to as the Supremacy Clause. It establishes that the federal constitution, and federal law generally, take precedence over state laws, and even state constitutions. It prohibits states from interfering with the federal government’s exercise of its constitutional powers, and from assuming any functions that are exclusively entrusted to the federal government. It does not, however, allow the federal government to review or veto state laws before they take effect.

      • FrankE

        Simple solution, change the law. It’s what the people want. Politicians still see this as a money making Cash Cow. Typical Republican greed……………

        • david83272

          Regardless of the perceived intention, the government has no right to tell people what they can or cannot put into their own bodies. Full stop.

  • BilodeauME

    The only way this can be resolved is changing Federal law. This should have been easy with 30 states now legalizing some form of medical and/or recreational marijuana. Add to this the fact that 64% of Americans now favor legalization. Of course, Republicans control both houses and can’t even pass any legislation, even the things they want to do, and legalizing marijuana isn’t even on their list. This is why people should vote. If you want to solve this, vote for Democrats.

    • FrankE

      Also keep in mind, Marijuana is to a Republican a cash crop, the big green cash cow. Getting a Republican to repeal anything involving an influx of money, be it fines or impounding things, is just about impossible……………….

  • MaineCWP

    “Congress has unambiguously made it a federal crime to cultivate, distribute and/or possess marijuana. As a law enforcement officer in the Executive Branch, it is a sworn responsibility to enforce that law.”

    The state is readying for legal sales to begin in July, and under the Lawless Obama-era rules, legal marijuana businesses expected to function free of prosecution. http://www.bostonherald.com

    Article VI, Paragraph 2 of the U.S. Constitution is commonly referred to as the Supremacy Clause. It establishes that the federal constitution, and federal law generally, take precedence over state laws, and even state constitutions. It prohibits states from interfering with the federal government’s exercise of its constitutional powers, and from assuming any functions that are exclusively entrusted to the federal government. It does not, however, allow the federal government to review or veto state laws before they take effect.

    Nor does any state law “legalize” possession, distribution, or manufacture of marijuana. Under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, state laws cannot permit what federal law prohibits. U.S. Const. art VI, cl. 2. Thus, while the CSA remains in effect, states cannot actually authorize the manufacture, distribution, or possession of marijuana. Such activity remains prohibited by federal law.

    The final quoted sentence is absolutely correct. Under Gonzales v. Raich, possession of a controlled remains prohibited by federal law, regardless of what the state law enacts. Justice Stevens explained in Raich:

    The Supremacy Clause unambiguously provides that if there is any conflict between federal and state law, federal law shall prevail.

    ***Law Enforcement Backs Sessions’s Ending of Hands-Off Approach to Marijuana.
    Cite car accidents, opioid epidemic, rule of law as reasons for support.

    “This experiment of giving cover to drug dealers has had fatal consequences. When marijuana was ‘legalized’ in Colorado, traffic-related deaths due to marijuana rose from 13% to 20%. This is costing people their lives,” he said.

    “Drug-related deaths currently exceed motor vehicle deaths, and while some states have taken steps to change the legal status of marijuana, the substance’s illegality remains federal law,” noted Nathan Catura, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. http://freebeacon.com/issue

    • Weiner

      You mean Congress and the Supreme Court have trampled the Constitution and illegally criminalized a harmless plant. There, saved you a bunch of time.

    • FrankE

      What ever happened to the voice of the people. The public is in favor of legal marijuana Just because some racist red neck Senator named Beauregard Sessions, is still afraid of the stuff, why should anyone care. Did anyone happen to catch the reasoning behind his hatred of Marijuana? It’s almost as stupid as the reason it was made illegal in the first place. Nothing but idiotic politics…………..

    • mdyer

      You should try it sometime, you’d get over this hysteria.

  • mdyer

    The photo of the U.S. Attorney accompanying this article kind of looks like a mugshot…just sayin, LSJ.