January 21, 2018
State Latest News | Poll Questions | 2018 Government Shutdown | Bangor Mall | Real ID

Maine’s federal prosecutor says he will focus on ‘hard drugs,’ not pot users

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff
Updated:
Robert F. Bukaty | AP | BDN
Robert F. Bukaty | AP | BDN
In this Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017 photo, marijuana plants grow indoors in Portland.

Maine’s top federal prosecutor said Tuesday that his office would focus on prosecuting traffickers of “hard drugs,” not marijuana users.

U.S. Attorney Halsey Frank issued a statement about his office’s drug prosecution priorities less than a week after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama administration policy under which states, including Maine, legalized marijuana for recreational use without fear of prosecution from the Department of Justice.

Under Sessions’ new guidelines, federal prosecutors in states where recreational use of marijuana is legal will decide if and when to enforce federal laws prohibiting its use.

“This office has prioritized the prosecution of cases involving the trafficking of opiates, cocaine, crack and similar hard drugs,” Frank said in a press release. “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also prosecuted large-scale marijuana distribution organizations and did so even while operating under the recently rescinded DOJ guidance.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.”

Sessions announced the change Thursday when a blizzard shut down federal and state offices and schools throughout the state. That day, Frank said he needed to consult with staff to “evaluate how it will impact our charging decisions in Maine.”

After requests from the media, government officials and others, Frank said Tuesday that his office will “proceed on a case-by-case basis” in deciding whether to use resources to prosecute marijuana users and growers. Frank did not list marijuana as a priority.

“Our local priorities include domestic violence and guns, human trafficking and elder fraud,” he said. “We will work with our federal, state, local and tribal partners to focus on those who pose the greatest threat to the people and communities that we serve.”

Frank said the national priorities for the Department of Justice include the rule of law, national security and terrorism, immigration, violent crime and international gangs such as MS-13, the opiate crisis, supporting law enforcement and promoting public confidence.

Although recreational marijuana was legalized by referendum in November 2016, the Maine Legislature continued Tuesday to debate the regulations that would allow for its sale commercially.

Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.

 


Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

You may also like