US attorney in Nevada says pot prosecutions not top priority

June 9, 2019 GMT

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Nevada’s top federal prosecutor isn’t ruling out the possibility filing cases related to marijuana, but he says it’s not at the top of his list.

U.S. Attorney Nicholas Trutanich told the Reno Gazette Journal he believes drug use and crime “go hand-in-hand,” and that “marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and my job is to enforce federal law.

However, U.S. Attorney General William Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee in January that although he believes the drug should be outlawed, the Justice Department would not go after marijuana companies in states where pot is legal.


The possibility of federal law enforcers taking action on cannabis cases in Nevada has been a question since both medical and recreational marijuana became legal in the Silver State two years ago.

The Trump administration hasn’t taken an official stance on states’ legalization of recreational marijuana, but former Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year rescinded Obama administration guidance that kept federal authorities from cracking down on the pot industry in states where the drug is legal.

Trutanich took over as U.S. attorney in Nevada in January.

His interview with the Gazette Journal followed a meeting in March with reporters in Las Vegas ahead off a “Project Safe Neighborhoods” gang and violent crime prevention conference he hosted with Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo for local, state, tribal and federal law enforcement officers.

Trutanich calls violent crime and gangs his top prosecutorial priorities, along with stemming opioid drug abuse and overdoses, national security and working with local law enforcers.

He told the Reno newspaper that one key in the opioid abuse battle is to prosecute “dirty doctors” who overprescribe.

“Those prescriptions are killing people,” he said.

Another Justice Department focus is on the exploitation of a people for labor, services, or commercial sex.

Trutanich noted that a human trafficking task force focuses on the Interstate 80 corridor across northern Nevada.

“The I-80 corridor is really the hotspot for trafficking from Sacramento to Reno and other parts of the United States,” he said.

Trutanich oversees the investigation and prosecution of all criminal and civil cases in Nevada. He supervises an office of more than 100 staff members, including four prosecutors in Reno office and about 50 statewide.

He said he wants to add U.S. attorneys in Reno in the coming weeks.


He was nominated for U.S. attorney by President Donald Trump and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. His nomination was announced last July by then-Sen. Dean Heller and endorsed by Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.

Trutanich previously worked as a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles for six years and handled national security cases in Iraq in 2010 and 2011.

From 2014 to 2018, he was chief of staff to former Republican state Attorney General Adam Laxalt.


Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com