Alleged leader of $13 million illegal marijuana ring claims federal protection

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An attorney for the alleged mastermind of an illegal interstate marijuana operation based in Maine claimed that a congressional act intended to shield legal marijuana businesses from federal prosecution also protects his client.

According to federal prosecutors, Lucas Sirois was the kingpin of a criminal scheme in which marijuana was grown legally under Maine medical cannabis law but sold on the illicit market, including in other states.

An attorney for Sirois – who has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to distribute drugs, money laundering, fraud and tax evasion – is attempting to convince a judge that a move by Congress shields him from prosecution, the Bangor Daily News reported.

In 2015, Congress passed a budget rider called the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which prohibits the Department of Justice from using federal funds to meddle with state-legal cannabis businesses.

Now called the Joyce-Blumenauer Amendment, subsequent sessions of Congress have renewed the protections for state-licensed businesses that obey state law.

Sirois, who has yet to be convicted of a crime, holds a valid MMJ license and is still in business, Maine regulators affirmed.

In a motion filed in federal court, according to the Daily News, defense attorney Timothy Parlatore claimed that Sirois and his co-defendants are being prosecuted for “actions they took that are and were in compliance with the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act, in direct violation of this congressional prohibition, and should therefore be enjoined.”

Federal prosecutors countered that Sirois and his alleged co-conspirators cannot enjoy the “safe harbor” under Joyce-Blumenauer because they “cannot establish that they were in substantial compliance with Maine law.”

According to the federal charges, Sirois and his co-defendants:

  • Reaped “in excess of $13 million over a six-year period” through illegal cannabis sales.
  • Bribed police officers, local prosecutors and politicians.
  • Filed false tax returns.
  • Created a “complex corporate structure” in order to obtain banking services.

Six other co-defendants in the case have pleaded guilty.

Parlatore formerly represented Donald Trump but left that legal team for “personal reasons” during the investigation into the former president’s alleged mishandling of classified documents.