By Erin Tiernan
Massachusetts’ legal marijuana industry is already taking a hit after U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling promised a hard-line approach to businesses that cultivate and sell the drug, which is illegal under federal law.
Lelling, of Sharon, called marijuana a “dangerous” drug after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ reversal of Obama-era guidance that instructed federal authorities to leave the marijuana businesses alone in states where the drug is legal.
Lelling said his office would “aggressively investigate and prosecute bulk cultivation and trafficking cases, and those who use the federal banking system illegally.” Unlike the U.S. attorney in Colorado, Lelling did not offer protection for people who participate in the “state-level marijuana trade.”
Medical-marijuana businesses throughout Massachusetts are already feeling shock waves caused by Lelling’s words.
Most of the state’s 17 operating dispensaries told customers they could no longer accept checks or cards as financial institutions started to pull out following threats of prosecution.
Ermont Inc. in Quincy said it was forced to become a cash-only business when an attorney for its debit card processor, Merchant Services Consulting Group, said it would no longer do business with them.
“Ermont Inc. was instructed (Monday) night by its debit card processor to immediately suspend the use of debit cards at the dispensary,” CEO Jack Hudson said in a statement. “We have complied and all transactions are cash-only until further notice. This is an unfortunate situation beyond Ermont’s control, and we sincerely apologize to our patients for the inconvenience.”
In Good Health of Brockton also told its customers online this week that debit card payments would cease “due to federal changes beyond our control.”
Merchant Services Consulting Group did not return requests for comment by the Ledger’s press deadline on could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The changes in federal priorities on