The states that made use of recreational marijuana legal urged the U.S. Supreme Court to consider their rights and reject a lawsuit from other states trying to ban pot sales. Oklahoma and Nebraska have filed a suit directly with the Supreme Court that contends that Colorado’s marijuana legalization violates federal drug regulations.
Colorado law enforcement officials, backed by Washington state officials, have argued that the court should reject the suit. They are defending their states’ rights to regulatory oversight of legal marijuana sales in their states. In their briefs, both states’ law enforcement officials argued that the Supreme Court should adhere to its long-standing policy of not getting involved in policy disputes between states.
The attorneys general for Nebraska and Oklahoma contend that the easy access to pot in their neighboring state (Colorado) has resulted in their residents travelling to Colorado to purchase legal marijuana. They then come home and sell the pot illegally to others.
Colorado’s Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has publicly criticized Oklahoma and Nebraska for blaming Colorado for its efforts to regulate marijuana within their borders. She pointed out that Colorado’s sovereignty is at stake. she accused the neighboring state of trying “to reach across their borders and selectively invalidate state laws with which they disagree.” She pointed out that the federal government has chosen to generally ignore Colorado’s pot sales system despite having the power to do something about it under the Controlled Substances Act.
A spokesperson for Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt noted in a statement that their state does not want to impose drug enforcement on Colorado. They maintain they are simply challenging regulations that have made Colorado a large-scale hub for the commercial marijuana growing and selling, which they say has created a tide of drugs flowing into Oklahoma, Nebraska and other states that are illegal in those jurisdictions.
Coffman noted that the neighboring states did not object to Colorado’s medical marijuana sales, which could also have resulting in drugs going across borders. That would be a tougher argument to win since 22 states have legalized medical marijuana, which is also something that the federal government choses to ignore.
“My office remains committed to defending Colorado’s law,” according to a statement from Coffman. “At the same time, I share our border states’ concerns regarding illegal marijuana activity.” She pointed out, “This lawsuit, however, even if successful, won’t fix America’s national drug policy.”
A friend-of-the-court brief filed Friday by Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson asks the high court to dump the lawsuit, which would also threaten laws in his state. Ferguson said he filed the brief to protect his state’s interests and to protect the desire of Washington’s voters from other states’ interference.
Many experts have criticized the lawsuit. Even within Oklahoma, a group of conservative legislators asked Pruitt to drop the suit. They felt, like Colorado and Washington, that it infringed on states’ rights to pass and enforce their own laws.
The states that allow legal recreational marijuana use urge the Supreme Court to consider their voters’ preferences and to support their sovereignty. The high court has yet to indicate whether it will take on the Nebraska-Oklahoma case.
By Dyanne Weiss