Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has asked the Supreme Court to throw out a lawsuit filed against Colorado by neighboring states Nebraska and Oklahoma. The suit challenges Colorado’s recreational marijuana market, stating that it has increased the amount of marijuana coming across the border.
Many small towns bordering Colorado have seen their local law enforcement budgets drained due to petty marijuana violations and court appearances. However, the question remains whether or not that is Colorado’s problem; after all, the plaintiffs could simply legalize marijuana if they wanted to end the issue.
Nebraska and Oklahoma contend that by legalizing marijuana, Colorado has violated both the Controlled Substances Act, which federally bans marijuana, and the Supremacy Clause in the U.S. constitution, which states that federal law supersedes state law.
Despite suing to overturn Colorado’s marijuana laws, Aaron Cooper, a spokesman for Oklahoma’s Attorney General, insists that the lawsuit is not trying to reverse marijuana legalization.
“Oklahoma is not challenging Colorado’s decision to legalize marijuana for personal use or possession under Colorado state law,” Cooper told the LA Times. “The only portion of the Colorado law Oklahoma is challenging is the section that transformed Colorado into a large-scale hub for the commercial growing and selling of marijuana.”
However, in her brief to the Supreme Court, Coffman calls this paradoxical reasoning. “Nebraska and Oklahoma concede that Colorado has power to legalize the cultivation and use of marijuana,” Coffman wrote. “Yet the Plaintiff States seek to strike down the laws and regulations that are designed to channel demand away from this black market and into a licensed and closely monitored retail system.”
Although a lot of heated words and legal briefs have been exchanged, it is still not guaranteed that the Supreme Court will even take up the case. Typically, the court tries to stay out of interstate disputes, especially when they deal with controversial subjects.
The court is very afraid of appearing to “legislate from the bench,” so there is a chance that they will pass on this case. The Supreme Court has done this before with far more important cases, like gay marriage, so it would not be a surprise for them to kick the marijuana issue down the road.
If the court drops the case, then that will more or less end Nebraska and Oklahoma’s lawsuit against Colorado. However, if it does go to the Supreme Court, the entire industry could be at stake. With such high stakes, Colorado is not alone in this fight. Washington and Oregon have filed a “friend of the court” brief, siding with Colorado.
“I am disappointed that Nebraska and Oklahoma took this step to interfere with Colorado’s popularly enacted initiative to legalize marijuana,” said Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson in a statement. “I filed this brief to protect Washington’s interests and the will of Washington’s voters from interference by other states.”
Hopefully the combined litigious might of Colorado, Washington and Oregon will be enough to kill this lawsuit before it progresses any further.