A Legal Threat To Legalization

by Dish Staff

Marijuana Colorado

Nebraska and Oklahoma are suing Colorado for legalizing marijuana:

Two of Colorado’s neighboring states, arguing that the legalization of marijuana for Coloradans is causing crime problems across state borders, asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to allow them to file a lawsuit directly before the Justices.  If the suit goes forward, Nebraska and Oklahoma’s filing said, the Court should rule that the commercial part of the Colorado scheme is unconstitutional and could no longer be enforced.

Josh Harkinson explains the states’ grievances:

Evidence has been mounting that Colorado can’t contain all of its weed. In June, USA Today highlighted the flow of its marijuana into small towns across Nebraska. Since 2011, the paper reported, felony drug arrests in Chappell, Nebraska, a town just seven miles north of the Colorado border, have jumped 400 percent.

Colorado has vowed to defend its laws:

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers isn’t backing down. In a statement, he said he intends to defend the state’s marijuana laws. “Because neighboring states have expressed concern about Colorado-grown marijuana coming into their states, we are not entirely surprised by this action,” Suthers said. “However, it appears the plaintiffs’ primary grievance stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado. We believe this suit is without merit and we will vigorously defend against it in the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Sullum doubts the prohibitionists will prevail:

As Deputy Attorney General James Cole explained to the Senate Judiciary Committee last year, the Justice Department decided against trying to block marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington after concluding that there was no viable legal strategy to stuff the buds back into the jar. It is well established that Congress cannot compel states to punish activities they decide should not be treated as crimes. Although the federal government might have more success in challenging a state’s licensing, regulation, and taxation of marijuana businesses, Cole said, the upshot of such a victory would be a legal but completely unregulated market. Given the way the Supreme Court has interpreted the Commerce Clause with reference to the ban on marijuana, the feds might force Colorado and Washington to scrap their rules for growing and distributing marijuana. But they cannot constitutionally force Colorado and Washington to arrest, prosecute, and imprison marijuana growers and distributors.

(Photo: A tourist purchases marijuana at La Conte’s Clone Bar & Dispensary during a marijuana tour hosted by My 420 Tours in Denver on December 6, 2014. By Craig F. Walker / The Denver Post)