Massachusetts official to target MS-13 gangs even if they sell legal marijuana

US Attorney Andrew Lelling, the top federal prosecutor in Massachusetts, said on Tuesday his office will continue targeting MS-13 gang members even if they sell marijuana, considered to be legal on a state level.

Lelling said he plans to keep prosecuting gangs like MS-13 for distributing drugs after regulators in the state issued the first marijuana retailing license last week.

While the state’s first pot retail license was recently issued, it was on Nov. 8, 2016, when Massachusetts became the first state on the East Coast to legalize recreational marijuana.

There are now nine US states where recreational use of marijuana is legal, and Oklahoma recently became the 30th state to allow medical cannabis.

ms-13 gangs sell marijuana
US Attorney Andrew Lelling, the top federal prosecutor in Massachusetts. (YouTube screengrab)

Lelling also said he is aiming to curb marijuana “overproduction” even though he wants to prioritize combating the opioid epidemic.

“To that end, federal investigators will continue to police the Commonwealth for incoming or outgoing shipments of cash as well as use of the federal banking system.”

He said three areas for potential marijuana prosecutions will include “overproduction,” “targeted sales to minors,” and “organized crime and interstate transportation of drug proceeds.”

Marijuana could lead to illegal sales

“Overproduction” of marijuana could lead to illegal sales in nearby states that haven’t yet legalized marijuana for recreational use, Lelling said.

“These out-of-state sales are nearly always cash transactions and so often involve federal tax fraud designed to hide the illicit cash or its true source.”

The federal prosecutor said he expects marijuana use among minors to increase, and the “targeted sale of marijuana to minors may warrant federal prosecution,” explaining why marijuana trade including transactions involving MS-13 will continue to be policed.

Combating opioid epidemic

However, Lelling repeated his intention that combating the opioid epidemic is his ultimate target.

“Because I have a constitutional obligation to enforce the laws passed by Congress, I will not effectively immunize the residents of the Commonwealth from federal marijuana enforcement,” he said. “My office’s resources, however, are primarily focused on combating the opioid epidemic that claims thousands of lives in the Commonwealth each year.”