Marijuana Legalization: States With Lawsuits Against Colorado Thrown Out By U.S. Supreme Court

Two states that neighbor Colorado have filed lawsuits against the state over marijuana legalization. However, the U.S. Supreme Court announced on Monday that the cases will not be heard.

Both Nebraska and Oklahoma contend marijuana legalization in Colorado has caused a large amount of weed to cross into neighboring states. They argue Colorado’s legalization of marijuana is a direct violation of federal law, which prohibits the possession of cannabis.

According to the lawsuits, this incursion of cannabis is burdening law enforcement, the judicial system, and penal system resources and puts public safety at a substantial risk. The states contend limited manpower and resources are stressed by the increase in illegal marijuana trafficking and transportation.

Nonetheless, Nebraska and Oklahoma say the lawsuits are not necessarily about marijuana legalization. The states disagree with the way Colorado controls the manufacture, possession, and distribution of cannabis, believing that poor regulation is causing them damage.

Oklahoma and Nebraska say legalization of marijuana by Colorado violates federal laws.
Both Oklahoma and Nebraska think poor regulation of Colorado's marijuana legalization laws increases the amount of pot crossing into their states. [Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images]

Colorado countered by saying that the states need to sue the federal government. Oklahoma and Nebraska have to fight the federal government’s policy against prosecuting individuals for simple marijuana possession.

“A state does not violate the sovereign rights of another state, by making a policy decision that parts ways with its neighbors,” Colorado said.

The U.S. Supreme Court, which settles disputes between states, voted six to two in favor of declining to hear the case. In dissenting opinions, Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, felt the plaintiffs had “a reasonable case” and should have been presented to the court.

Justice Thomas wrote that the Supreme Court is obligated to decide in the case.

“The complaint, on its face, presents a ‘controvers[y] between two or more States’ that this Court alone has authority to adjudicate. The plaintiff States have alleged significant harms to their sovereign interests caused by another State. Whatever the merit of the plaintiff States’ claims, we should let this complaint proceed further rather than denying leave without so much as a word of explanation.”

While disappointed with the court’s refusal, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson is not giving up. According to a Monday statement, he is working with partners in Oklahoma as well as other states to determine the next steps.

“Today, the Supreme Court has not held that Colorado’s unconstitutional facilitation of marijuana industrialization is legal and the Court’s decision does not bar additional challenges to Colorado’s scheme in federal district court,” Peterson said in the statement.

While the Supreme Court’s decision is a win for Colorado, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman isn’t celebrating just yet. She is aware that Nebraska and Oklahoma will continue to pursue other legal avenues and the fight will go on.

“I continue to believe that this lawsuit was not the way to properly address the challenges posed by legalized marijuana,” she said. “But the problems are not going away.”

Marijuana became legal in Colorado four years ago.
The state of Colorado legalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2012. [Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images]

As previously reported by the Inquisitr, the Obama administration played a part in influencing the Supreme Court’s decision to decline the case. A court document filed by the U.S. Justice Department stated the Colorado marijuana lawsuits were inappropriate for the Supreme Court. The alleged harm being caused to Oklahoma and Nebraska is due to individuals breaking the law and not by the state of Colorado.

As reported by the Denver Post, Colorado passed marijuana legalization laws in 2012. Two years later, state-authorized stores began cropping up that sold cannabis to anyone 21 and older.

Marijuana possession is illegal in both Nebraska and Oklahoma. According to the lawsuit, the two states have seen a significant uptick in the number of people caught with marijuana within their borders. While Colorado disagrees, the states argue the increased number of violators is a direct result of the legalized stores.

The marijuana legalization lawsuits were filed by Oklahoma and Nebraska over a year ago and had been scheduled and rescheduled multiple times before the justices finally decided to refuse them.

[Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]