The Obama Administration came to the defense of legal marijuana states on Wednesday by advising the U.S. Supreme Court not to waste any time entertaining a lawsuit conjured up by Oklahoma and Nebraska over their seething disdain for Colorado’s recreational cannabis trade.
A brief filed by the Justice Department’s leading legal eagle, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., is a finely penned tune of persuasion intended to get the nation’s highest court to reject the lawsuit disputing Colorado’s decision to legalize marijuana. The document suggests the U.S. Supreme Court is not the proper venue for this grievance.
“The motion for leave to file a bill of complaint should be denied because this is not an appropriate case for the exercise of this Court’s original jurisdiction,” Verrilli wrote. “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.”
It was around this time last year when Oklahoma and Nebraska formed an alliance in an attempt to thwart Colorado’s legal marijuana trade by going for the jugular in the Supreme Court. The lawsuit, which seeks to knock Colorado back into prohibitionary times, claims that ever since the state launched recreational sales in 2014, the interstates have been flooded with people smuggling weed into their neck of the woods. Colorado fought back, however, demanding the Supreme Court dismiss the case, prompting the justices to ask the federal government to chime in before making a final decision.
Essentially, Verrilli’s letter advises the U.S. Supreme Court to avoid hearing this lawsuit because the perils in which Oklahoma and Nebraska are allegedly battling due to the implementation of Colorado’s marijuana market are acts conducted by individuals and not by the state.
“Nebraska and Oklahoma essentially contend that Colorado’s authorization of licensed intrastate marijuana production and distribution increases the likelihood that third parties will commit criminal offenses in Nebraska and Oklahoma by bringing marijuana purchased from licensed entities in Colorado into those states,” Verrelli wrote. “But they do not allege that Colorado has directed or authorized any individual to transport marijuana into their territories in violation of their laws. Nor would any such allegation be plausible.”
Marijuana advocates across the nation celebrated the Justice Department’s opinion as a major victory for the entire movement to reform the marijuana laws in the United States.
“This is the right move by the Obama administration,” Tom Angell with the Marijuana Majority told High Times in an emailed statement. “Colorado and a growing number of states have decided to move away from decades of failed prohibition laws, and so far things seem to be working out as planned. Legalization generates tax revenue, creates jobs and takes the market out of the hands of drug cartels and gangs. New federal data released this week shows that as more legalization laws come online, we’re not seeing an increase in teen marijuana use, despite our opponents’ scare tactics. The Justice Department is correct here: This lawsuit is without merit and should be dismissed.”
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