BOSTON — One big question marijuana entrepreneurs will face in states like Massachusetts is whether federal agents will crack down on the state-sanctioned business, which is still illegal under federal law.
At a gathering of policymakers from around the country on Monday, a lawmaker from Washington state, a Vanderbilt University law professor and a Brookings Institute fellow all suggested pot proprietors can breathe easy.
The three experts, who spoke on a panel held by the National Conference of State Legislatures in Boston, each said tight funding and other pressures should keep federal law enforcement at bay.
“Trying to roll it back and trying to go back to the old War on Drugs – the terribly failed system – they will do it at their own peril,” Rep. Roger Goodman, a Democrat who lives outside Seattle, told the gathering at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.
Vanderbilt Law School professor Robert Mikos said a federal appeals court ruled that current appropriations law bars the Department of Justice from prosecuting cases against medical marijuana dispensaries that are in compliance with local laws.
Last November, Massachusetts voters legalized adult possession and cultivation of marijuana, and this summer state lawmakers overhauled the ballot law’s system for regulating retail sale of the intoxicant. Medical marijuana dispensaries that were legalized in 2012 are already up and running in the Bay State, and top lawmakers anticipate the first legal pot shop will open next summer.
Under a 1970 statute, marijuana is considered among the most dangerous drugs under federal law, and federal officials…
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