Obama Administration Calls for Dismissal of Cannabis Lawsuit Against Colorado

The White House is urging the Supreme Court to dismiss a court case brought against Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis by neighboring states Oklahoma and Nebraska.

The plaintiff states filed suit in December 2014, claiming that Colorado voters had illegally defied the federal government’s drug laws in passing legalization. Nebraska and Oklahoma argue that their own marijuana laws have become more difficult to enforce since Colorado legalized, and that legally-purchased cannabis from Colorado has started to drain local law enforcement resources. The plaintiffs seek a repealing of Colorado’s legalization laws by the Supreme Court.

Colorado made requests that the Court dismiss the charges. Instead, the Supreme Court called for input from the federal government.

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. explained the position of the Obama Administration via written statement:

“Entertaining the type of dispute at issue here — essentially that one state’s laws make it more likely that third parties will violate federal and state law in another state — would represent a substantial and unwarranted expansion of this court’s original jurisdiction. … At most, they have alleged that third-party lawbreakers are inflicting those injuries, and that Colorado’s legal regime makes it easier for them to do so.”

Because Colorado is not encouraging — or indeed allowing — any third-party lawbreakers to cross state lines with marijuana purchased intrastate, the feds are arguing that the state cannot be held responsible for the recent spike in drug-related crimes in Oklahoma and Nebraska.

Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project said in a statement, “If officials in Nebraska and Oklahoma want to have a prohibition-fueled marijuana free-for-all in their states, that’s their prerogative. But most Coloradans would prefer to see marijuana regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.”

Photo Credit: Tim Sackton

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