State AG: Legislature must enact Medical Marijuana Amendment, federal prosecution of lawmakers unlikely | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

State AG: Legislature must enact Medical Marijuana Amendment, federal prosecution of lawmakers unlikely

Posted By on Wed, Jan 25, 2017 at 12:00 PM

RUTLEDGE: Legislature is obligated to enact the Medical Marijuana Amendment
  • RUTLEDGE: Legislature is obligated to enact the Medical Marijuana Amendment
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge yesterday released an opinion stating that state lawmakers are indeed obligated to follow the terms of the medical marijuana amendment, a change to the state constitution approved by voters last November. Asked whether enacting the amendment would violate the laws of the United States, she declined to opine on federal law but stated that federal prosecution for setting up the marijuana regulatory system was unlikely in practice.

The opinion came in a response to state Rep. Doug House, who had two questions. House's first question:

Are members of the Legislature obligated, under the terms of the Marijuana Amendment, to take certain actions that would facilitate the manufacture and delivery of cannabis in violation of the laws of the United States?
Rutledge responded unequivocally that the legislature must enact the law. Creating the regulatory regime — and appropriating the sales tax revenues and other revenues derived — "appear to be mandatory under the plain terms of the Amendment," she wrote.

House's second question:

Would voting to pass laws and regulations to carry out the purposes of the Marijuana Amendment, or the execution of such laws and regulations by the executive, constitute a violation of such laws of the United States? 
"The resolution of this question depends upon the interpretation and application of federal law, which are matters falling outside the scope of an opinion from this office," Rutledge responded.

The marijuana amendment is not itself a shield from federal criminal prosecution, Rutledge wrote, but it was unlikely that any state government official or employee would be prosecuted for following state law (she added that such a prosecution would likely fail). "[A]s a practical matter, I suspect that those actually possessing and distributing marijuana are the ones more likely to face the prospect of federal prosecution, as opposed to either state lawmakers who must enact laws in accordance with the AMMA or executive-branch officials who must enforce the Amendment," she wrote.

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