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U.S. Attorney's Office to focus on violent crime and marijuana trafficking, not legal businesses

Posted at 10:22 AM, Aug 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-20 10:25:18-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Florida says they will not prosecute marijuana-related businesses that operate in compliance with Florida state law.

Last week, U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe of the Northern District of Florida issued a policy statement regarding the ongoing prosecution of criminal cases against marijuana-related cases, particularly those involving marijuana trafficking and gun violence, in response to the decision expressed by some state attorneys in Florida to stop prosecutions of marijuana cases because they can't discern legal hemp from illegal marijuana.

"Throughout the Northern District of Florida, local police, sheriffs, and state prosecutors know the close connection between illegal marijuana trafficking and the gun violence that plagues our communities," U.S. Attorney Keefe wrote. "Unlike recreational marijuana users who largely engage in small-time transactions, these violent criminals pose a very real and ongoing threat to the law-abiding citizens of our communities."

For that reason, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Florida says it will continue to purse cases that involve felons who commit violent crimes while trafficking marijuana and other dangerous drugs.

However, the U.S. Attorney's Office clarified that they have "no intent to discourage or deter the evolution of the Northern District of Florida’s legal marijuana industry."

"Law-abiding enterprises that comply with state law in the Northern District of Florida will be able to continue doing their business," Keefe wrote. "State lawmakers can make their own policy decisions within the framework of federal law."

Instead, Keefe says that the resources of the office should be allocated to tackling "higher priorities," like drug trafficking, human trafficking, domestic terrorism and election security.

"I have determined that these precious resources should not be used to prosecute federally here in the Northern District of Florida what the Florida state Legislature has determined to be legal in regard to marijuana," Keefe explained.

He says the U.S. Attorney's Office will continue to focus on large-scale cases, particularly those that involve connections between illegal, black market marijuana trafficking and criminal gun violence, money laundering, and the “poly-drug” trafficking of marijuana along with other dangerous drugs such as heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cocaine.