NEWTON, N.H. (Reuters) – The U.S. government is stepping up its effort to curb the growing number of marijuana dispensaries and medical marijuana facilities in states where voters have approved legalization, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Friday the department is in touch with governors and law enforcement agencies in every state that has legalized medical marijuana.
In a letter to governors and police chiefs, Sessions said the U.D.C. would soon be in contact with local and state authorities to ensure that state laws comply with federal law, and would provide “any assistance necessary to facilitate compliance.”
The department would provide financial assistance to state and local law enforcement to enforce existing laws.
The Justice Department, which was formed to enforce the 1994 Controlled Substances Act, is expected to announce plans later this week to prosecute dispensaries and the medical marijuana industry, which is growing rapidly in many states where recreational marijuana is legal.
In the last month, the department has already charged at least six people in states that legalized marijuana with violating federal drug laws.
That included the alleged cultivation and sale of marijuana, distribution of marijuana to a minor and trafficking of marijuana.
The latest crackdown comes on top of a Justice Department probe of the growing medical marijuana business in Colorado and a separate probe into the operations of an Arizona dispensary.
The dispensaries in Colorado have been the subject of multiple raids and have faced civil and criminal penalties.
Sessions said the department’s investigation into medical marijuana businesses and other marijuana-related businesses is not meant to be a punitive move.
It’s a matter of protecting public safety and protecting our laws, he said.
But some medical marijuana advocates worry the Justice Department may be too quick to move in a direction they don’t want.
They say the federal government is looking for loopholes to skirt laws, such as allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to operate without government oversight.
They fear the Justice’s enforcement strategy will not be as focused and effective, particularly with a national election on the horizon.
Seth Medlock, president of the New Hampshire Coalition for Medical Marijuana, said he thinks Sessions will not try to take any action to block medical marijuana companies from opening up in states with ballot initiatives that legalize the drug.
Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Kirsten Herring of Massachusetts are co-sponsors of a bill that would bar the Justice from pursuing a crackdown on medical marijuana patients.
A spokeswoman for Sessions declined to comment on the letter.