Statement by U.S. Attorney Halsey B. Frank Regarding Federal Marijuana Enforcement
I have received numerous inquiries from members of the media, government officials, and others seeking guidance from this office about its approach to enforcing the federal marijuana laws. Those laws make the production, distribution and possession of marijuana illegal based on its classification by Congress as a Schedule I Controlled Substance because Congress determined that it has a high potential for abuse and dependence and has no acceptable medical use.
As the chief federal law enforcement officer in this district, my job is to enforce federal law, not countermand it. While I have some discretion in how my office does so in any particular case, that discretion is guided by the Principles of Federal Prosecution of the Department of Justice (DOJ). Those principles include the interests of society, the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system, federal law enforcement priorities, the nature and seriousness of the offense, the deterrent effect of prosecution, the person's culpability in connection with the offense, their criminal history and willingness to cooperate in the investigation or prosecution of others, the interests of any victims, and the probable sentence or other consequences if the person is convicted, all in light of the DOJ’s and my office’s limited resources. I do not have the authority to categorically declare that my office will not prosecute a class of crime or persons.
Rather, we must proceed on a case-by-case basis, individually assessing each matter according to DOJ’s Principles and deciding whether to use our resources to pursue it. DOJ’s national priorities 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. In addition, our local priorities include domestic violence and guns, human trafficking, and elder fraud. 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.
With respect to the prosecution of drug offenses, this office has prioritized the prosecution of cases involving the trafficking of opiates, cocaine, crack and similar hard drugs. 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also prosecuted large-scale marijuana distribution organizations and did so even while operating under the recently rescinded DOJ guidance.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.