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Massachusetts Could Become Country’s First ‘Marijuana Sanctuary’ State

Ganja Massachusetts

Two state representatives are hoping to make Massachusetts the first marijuana sanctuary state by filing a bill that bans state and local police from helping in federal cases against those in compliance with state marijuana laws.

The bill is in response to the announcement made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to ending Cole Memo protections and gives federal prosecutors discretion to enforce the federal law, even against state-compliant marijuana businesses, according to the Boston Globe.

Representative Dave Rogers said, “We have a state law, it’s valid, and we think it should be respected. If federal law enforcement has something different in mind, they can use their own resources, because Massachusetts taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay to do something that goes against our laws.”

Andrew Lelling, the top federal prosecutor in Massachusetts, says that marijuana is a “dangerous drug” and is refusing to promise that his office would only go after black market operations. Those comments shook the marijuana industry and has drawn negative comments from some top elected officials, including Governor Charlie Baker, who said Lelling needs to focus on the state’s opiate crisis instead.

Massachusetts State Police, including departments in Boston and Worcester, said they won’t help federal agencies with raids on compliant marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities. The bill would make it a requirement for all law enforcement departments statewide, and would also ban employees from other public agencies from handing over records to federal investigators without ample court orders.

Rogers calls the legislation’s political prospects uncertain, but said most of Massachusetts’ elected officials oppose Sessions announcement, and that a majority of police departments have “more pressing problems” than marijuana to deal with.

Will Luzier of MPP, who helped lead the recreational marijuana legalization campaign in 2016, conceived the legislation.

Jim Borghesani of MPP said, “I think it will help local law enforcement agencies to have clear parameters regarding their involvement with federal actions against lawfully permitted cannabis establishments.”

The legislation is titled the “Refusal of Complicity Act,” similar to “sanctuary city” legislation that some jurisdictions enacted to protect undocumented immigrants from federal agency interference. It also mimics the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, preventing the DOJ from using federal funds on prosecuting state-compliant marijuana businesses. California lawmakers are proposing similar legislation.