Several Oklahoma Republicans came to the defense of marijuana, albeit inadvertently, after the state joined Nebraska in a lawsuit seeking to reverse Colorado’s recreational pot law.
The suit claims that legal pot from Colorado is being diverted into neighboring Nebraska and Oklahoma causing “significant detrimental impact.” The Supreme Court must decide if Colorado’s voter-approved marijuana law should be reversed on the basis that it is “fundamentally at odds” with federal law, as the suit contends.
However, a group of seven Oklahoma Republicans are miffed at state Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who filed the lawsuit along with Nebraska’s attorney general. The lawmakers wrote a letter to Pruitt asking him to drop the suit and let Colorado’s legal pot law stand. Yet while it might appear the GOP reps are backing marijuana, this is a case of self-interest acquainting legislators with strange bedfellows.
In the letter the Oklahoma seven, led by Representative Mike Ritze, make it abundantly clear that they are no fans of pot, assuring AG Pruitt that they share his concerns about marijuana flooding into the state and “appreciate [his] efforts to protect the people of Oklahoma from this dangerous substance.”
The primary concern expressed by the group involves state’s rights. “If the federal government can force Colorado to criminalize marijuana … it could also force Oklahoma to criminalize a wide range of goods and activities,” the letter to Pruitt reads.
But Ritze and company take it a step further, arguing that the lawsuit equates United Nations drug treaties with federal law. “If the argument in the lawsuit were successful, the federal government could, in theory, adopt any UN treaty, then force the states, including Oklahoma, to help impose it.”
Despite bordering on paranoia, this mistrust of the federal government works in pot proponents’ favor as the dissenting Republicans have succeeded in bringing the lawsuit under scrutiny and placing Pruitt in the hot seat.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert says his state, which shares the western border of Colorado, will not join the suit. Meanwhile, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers believes the suit is “without merit” and plans to “vigorously defend against it in the US Supreme Court.”
Interestingly, the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health seems to contradict the lawsuit’s contention that legal pot from Colorado is affecting its neighbor states. According to the report’s data from 2012-2013, monthly marijuana use is down eight percent in Oklahoma and has declined in Nebraska as well.
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