The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it will not hear a lawsuit filed by the states of Nebraska and Oklahoma that claims that Colorado’s recreational pot law violates federal law and enables the trafficking of marijuana across their borders.
“The State of Colorado authorizes, oversees, protects and profits from a sprawling $100-million-per-month marijuana growing, processing and retailing organization that exported thousands of pounds of marijuana to some 36 states in 2014,” Nebraska and Oklahoma’s attorneys argued according to The New York Times. “If this entity were based south of our border, the federal government would prosecute it as a drug cartel.”
A brief filed by Colorado’s attorneys read, “Nebraska and Oklahoma concede that Colorado has power to legalize the cultivation and use of marijuana — a substance that for decades has seen enormous demand and has, until recently, been supplied exclusively through a multi-billion-dollar black market. Yet the plaintiff states seek to strike down the laws and regulations that are designed to channel demand away from this black market and into a licensed and closely monitored retail system.”
The court did not explain why it will not hear the case, but Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who dissented from the majority along with Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., wrote in his opinion cited by The Denver Post, “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.”
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said in a statement, “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.”
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman applauded the decision and said, “Although we’ve had victories in several federal lawsuits over the last month, the legal questions surrounding [Colorado’s recreational pot legalization] Amendment 64 still require stronger leadership from Washington.”
Leading up to the decision, Obama administration attorneys had urged the court not to hear the case, whereas a group of former Drug Enforcement Administration officials had argued in favor of Nebraska and Oklahoma’s assertions.