Two medical marijuana growers in Illinois were not immediately concerned about the U.S. Department of Justice's new stance on enforcement of federal marijuana laws. However, one wondered to what extent the federal government will go in enforcing such laws and whether a federal prosecutor could close his business.
A news release Thursday from the DOJ said, “Congress has generally prohibited the cultivation, distribution, and possession of marijuana.”
The move returns power to “federal prosecutors who know where and how to deploy Justice Department resources most effectively to reduce violent crime, stem the tide of the drug crisis, and dismantle criminal gangs.”
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the announcement "simply directs all U.S. Attorneys to use previously established prosecutorial principles that provide them all the necessary tools to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country."
That news release has raised concerns with Illinois state lawmakers and legal medical cannabis operations alike.
Illinois medical cannabis dispensary Maribis has operations in the Springfield area in the DOJ’s Central District of Illinois and also in the Chicago area in the Northern District of Illinois.
Maribis General Manager Dan Linn said said the DOJ’s new stance is causing him concern.
“The reality is that if there was a U.S. attorney in the Central Illinois district who wanted to kind of gain some national headlines, they could very well come in and arrest us,” Linn said.
He doesn’t anticipate that will happen, necessarily, but Sessions has seemingly created that potential.
HCI Alternatives has dispensaries in Springfield and in the DOJ’s Southern District of Illinois in Carbondale.
HCI CEO Chris Stone wasn't too concerned about federal involvement.
“For good operators like us who are fully compliant with the law, and are actually over compliant with the state law, I don’t worry about this because, you know what, we do a great job,” Stone said. “And I would hope that most if not all the other dispensaries and cultivation groups in the state do a great job. So I don’t think those are the guys that are going to be affected by this.”
Both Linn and Stone said a federal amendment making medical pot off limits to federal enforcement also provides them assurances.
Linn said Maribis is telling their patients to get more involved in the political process “so that we can actually see a potential change on the federal level and the law and the scheduling of cannabis which would allow many benefits for our patients and our business.”
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, said Congress should take the issue up to respect state’s rights.
“Those citizens chose that path and to me the federal government ought to respect that in this case as I’ve asked the federal government to respect it in many other instances,” Davis said.
He notes that states with medical marijuana laws see a statistical decrease in the number of opioid addictions because people find relief through cannabis, rather than synthetic opioids, prescription pills or street heroin.
Trump administration Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the move highlights the DOJ’s priority to enforce federal law.