CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The new U.S. attorney in West Virginia’s Southern District is pledging to pursue marijuana cases in the Mountain State in compliance with federal law.
“We have a limited number of resources, a number of high-profile matters to deal with, but we do not view marijuana as any less important for prosecution than any opiate that’s on the street including heroin,” said Mike Stuart.
He took the Oath of Office during a private ceremony Tuesday in Charleston.
Last week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he was rescinding the 2013 “Cole memo.”
Named for James Cole, a deputy U.S. attorney general under President Barack Obama, it allowed for prosecutorial discretion in states where marijuana was legal.
In general, it was viewed as a “hands-off,” passive approach to the enforcement of federal law under which marijuana remains illegal.
“It is the mission of the Department of Justice to enforce the laws of the United States, and the previous issuance of guidance undermines the rule of law,” Sessions said.
Stuart agreed. “We in the Southern District of West Virginia will take that very seriously,” he said.
“Anyone who’s a drug dealer or drug trafficker of any controlled substance, I urge them to stop and, if they choose not to stop, I tell them not to bring it here. But if they bring it here, we’re going to use all the laws within our bailiwick to make sure prosecute them to the full extent of the law.”
Under federal law, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug — defined as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Heroin is also a Schedule I drug.
On Jan. 1, California became the latest state to legalize recreational marijuana.
West Virginia is on a track to legalize marijuana for medical uses only by Summer 2019.
In 2014, Congress included an amendment in an appropriations bill barring the U.S. Department of Justice from allocating funds that interfere with state medical marijuana laws. If not renewed, it will expire on Jan. 19.
“I will not bring my personal views in here except (to say) that it’s no secret — I’m against recreational use,” Stuart said during an appearance on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
“I think it’s a little dubious for medical use, however, the Rohrabacher amendment and Congressional mandate has made very clear, including here in West Virginia, that we’re going to leave the states the use for medical purposes of medical marijuana.”
President Donald Trump nominated Stuart in September and the U.S. Senate confirmed his nomination in December.
On Wednesday, a “Make It Legal Rally” was held at the West Virginia State Capitol on the first day of the 2018 legislative session to promote marijuana legalization on medical, industrial and recreational fronts.