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Bill Seeks to Protect Marijuana Users in MA

Nine states and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana. (StayRegular/Pixabay)
Nine states and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana. (StayRegular/Pixabay)
January 25, 2018

BOSTON – A bill has been introduced in the legislature to keep those who follow the Bay State's law on marijuana use from being turned over to federal authorities.

The bill, called "An Act relative to refusal of complicity", would prohibit local and state officials from using state resources to assist federal agents in the prosecution of individuals who are following the Commonwealth's marijuana laws, unless federal authorities have a warrant.

The issue was drawn into the spotlight when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he is rescinding the Obama administration policy of not interfering in states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana.

According to Jolene Forman, a staff attorney with the Drug Policy Alliance, the bill reinforces the state's Tenth Amendment protections.

"State law enforcement officials and government actors cannot be compelled by the federal government to pass laws that are consistent with federal law or to enforce federal laws," she stresses.

The bill was inspired by the practice of sanctuary cities and states that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Other states, including California, have taken similar actions.

The Justice Department does have the authority to enforce federal laws within the states. But Forman points out that bringing in federal agents to enforce marijuana laws would take manpower and would run counter to the will of voters who approved legalization.

"They're not only using limited resources to go after something that people think should be legal and going after the best actors, they're taking away resources from other, more urgent federal enforcement priorities," she states.

So far, 29 states have legalized medical marijuana, and Vermont recently became the ninth state to legalize recreational use.

Sessions calls marijuana a "dangerous drug" and maintains legalization will lead to more widespread use.

But Forman says a recent report showed states that have legalized marijuana are doing a good job of regulating it and reaping social benefits as well.

"Reducing resources spent arresting people for minor marijuana offenses and collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues that are going to socially beneficial things in their state," she points out.

Earlier this month, the New Hampshire House gave preliminary approval to a bill allowing adults to possess up to an ounce of marijuana.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - MA