So … Is Pot Legal or Not in MA?

20 January, 2018, 08:13 | Author: Kim Reid
  • Portland's Sweet Leaf on Southeast 122nd Avenue is one of the many pot-selling businesses that have sprouted throughout Oregon as a result of legalization

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who was among those signing the letter to Congress, said in a statement that "the future of small and local licensed [cannabis] businesses has been clouded by the Trump administration's relentless attacks on progress, in conflict with the will of voters".

The situation creates all sorts of headaches for customers and businesses alike and means many transactions are cash-only.

The fight centers around the ability of legalized medical or recreational marijuana businesses to bring their commerce to banking institutions.

"Conflicting state and federal legislation is nothing new in the marijuana industry and continues to be a risk factor for licensed marijuana businesses", said Karima Rizk, who hopes to open a cannabis cafe in Easthampton.

They ask that Congress pass legislation like the SAFE Banking Act, which was introduced by Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., again last April, which would allow banks and financial institutions to work with marijuana businesses without fear of being punished.

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"Yet those revenues often exist outside of the regulated banking space", the January 16 letter says.

Cole authored what came to be called the "Cole memo" giving USA attorneys around the country "the latitude to use prosecutorial discretion" in pursuing pot cases in states where pot use had been decriminalized or legalized.

Even under state law, marijuana can not be used in public spaces, similar to restrictions on alcohol.

Andrew Lelling, the US attorney for MA, said last week that while he understood the desire for guidance on the federal approach to that state's recreational marijuana law, he "cannot provide assurances that certain categories of participants in the state-level marijuana trade will be immune from federal prosecution".

"With Delaware and New Jersey poised to legalize cannabis in 2018 we think Pennsylvania is ready to join the conversation", said Chris Goldstein of South Philly NORML, "We can save more than 70 million tax dollars every year by stopping marijuana possession arrests alone, and we can see more than 300 million in new tax revenue for the commonwealth with retail cannabis".

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Under its new law, Vermont residents can carry up to an ounce of marijuana for personal, recreational use and grow, though commercial sales are still prohibited.

Sessions' action makes the need for congressional action to get marijuana cash into a regulated banking sector even more urgent, the attorneys general argued. "This unacceptable and we will continue to advocate for safe, legalized access to recreational adult-use marijuana in MA".

A spokeswoman for Dave Freed, the new US attorney in Harrisburg, said only that criminal investigations and prosecutions "will be based on a fair and transparent fact-intensive inquiry of individual cases".

Sessions rescinded the 2013 Cole Memo, which deferred to states on enforcing marijuana laws.

Under a current appropriations rider, the Department of Justice is barred from spending money to interfere with state medical cannabis laws or people following them.

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Some 38,000 law enforcement and public safety officials in the state use JNET, which includes criminal histories, warrant information and facial recognition information.

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