Medical marijuana. Photo: Shutterstock.com
Felony state drug smuggling charges pending in Minnesota against two former executives of a medical marijuana dispensary highlight the difficulties of operating in an industry where state and federal laws are at odds.
That may be especially true now that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded the so-called Cole memo, which formerly told federal prosecutors to focus on drug cartels and cross-border trafficking, not marijuana outlets complying with state regulatory schemes, legal experts say.
In the Minnesota case, the former chief medical officer and security officer of medical marijuana company Vireo Health LLC, Dr. Laura Bultman and Ronald Owens, respectively, are charged in Minnesota state court with illegally transferring medical cannabis across state lines. They were charged after they allegedly transported cannabis oil in 2016 to New York to keep the company from missing a state deadline to start business there under a newly enacted New York law allowing medical marijuana distribution, according to court documents and news reports. Vireo Health, based in Minneapolis, is the parent company of medical marijuana dispensaries in Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania.
The defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges. In commenting on his client’s case, Bultman’s attorney, Paul Engh, cited the uncertainty surrounding the industry and its legal scheme.
“The medical marijuana industry is in its infancy, the rules have never been interpreted, and are patchwork and uncertain from state to state,” he said in an emailed statement. “What we do know is that Dr. Bultman, who enjoys distinguished reputation, acted in good faith to serve patients in evident need.”
Owens’ lawyer, Ryan Garry, declined to comment on the case because it is still pending.
A spokesman for Vireo Health did not respond to an emailed request for comment, though in prior news reports he has pointed out that neither the company nor any of its affiliates are parties to the criminal case and that state