BOSTON – The Boston Globe reported Tuesday that the US attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling is prioritizing the opioid epidemic over enforcing marijuana crimes. Adults 21 years of age and above can legally consume recreational marijuana in the state.
Lelling stated in a Department of Justice press release that although marijuana is now legal in Massachusetts, federal law still prohibits the drug. Lelling said that he is obligated by the constitution to enforce the laws of Congress, but he could not give immunity to the citizens of Massachusetts from federal prosecution regarding marijuana.
However, the federal prosecutor cited the opioid epidemic as his priority and announced that his office is focusing its resources on marijuana overproduction, retailers targeting minors, and organized crime. More than 115 people die daily from an opioid overdose in the United States and thousands die every year in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Federal Prosecutor to Target Drug Traffickers
Lelling said that his office will target outdoor cultivation sites because illegal operations frequently grow outdoors and distribute across state lines. The federal prosecutor also believes legalization will increase marijuana use by minors and plans to prosecute anyone targeting minors to sell marijuana.
The press release also stated that organized crime will be a priority of the federal prosecutor's office. The office will focus their efforts on drug cartels and gangs trafficking major drugs.
One example is the RICO case against Edgar Pleitez.
Pleitez pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years for racketeering and conspiracy with the intent to distribute more than 100 grams of heroin for MS-13. Pleitez was caught selling heroin on three separate occasions in 2015. A three-year investigation ensued resulting in dozens of arrests. Pleitez will also be supervised for four years upon his release from prison.
"My office will continue to prosecute organized criminal groups, like MS-13, that distribute drugs in violation of federal law, regardless of whether that distribution is legal under state laws," wrote Lelling.
Lelling said he is less likely to spend resources on othefr crimes, like the opioid epidemic, but will monitor situations involving marijuana on a case-by-case basis while referencing the U.S. Department of Justice's Principles of Federal Prosecution for guidance. Officials will monitor the use of the federal banking system for large cash transactions, money laundering, and tax fraud.