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a statement about his office’s drug prosecution priorities less than a week after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama administration policy under which states, including Maine, legalized marijuana for recreational use without fear of prosecution from the Department of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also prosecuted large-scale marijuana distribution organizations and did so even while operating under the recently rescinded DOJ guidance.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.
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