Anti-Pot Group Sues Over Colorado's Legal Marijuana Industry

By McCarton Ackerman 04/10/15

Yet another conservative anti-pot group has filed suit to stop Colorado's legal weed industry in its tracks.

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Colorado’s extremely profitable marijuana industry could soon come to an end if an anti-pot group get their way with a federal lawsuit they filed back in February.

Safe Streets Alliance (SSA), a Washington, D.C.-based group aimed at reducing youth drug use and violent crimes, alleges that both state and local officials in Colorado are violating federal law by promoting the commercialization of marijuana.

Because they claim state officials in the state have violated federal racketeering laws, the group believes that individuals or businesses who feel they have been hurt by the marijuana industry have the right to an injunction, treble damages, and attorneys’ fees.

The SSA, which is chaired by former Reagan Administration appointee James Wootton, also wrote in an online statement that they were suing “several prominent participants” in Colorado’s pot industry, but didn’t specify who.

“Safe Streets is asking the federal courts to order Colorado officials to comply with federal law and stop issuing state licenses to deal illegal drugs," they wrote.

Meanwhile, pro-marijuana advocates in the state argued that legalizing pot has curbed much of the violent crime that SSA works to prevent. They expressed concern that losing the lawsuit would only mean that marijuana businesses and trading would be put back into the hands of violent gangs.

"Hundreds of millions of dollars in marijuana sales that were previously taking place in a dangerous underground market are now being conducted safely," said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project. "It's hard to imagine why anyone would prefer marijuana be controlled by criminals instead of by tightly regulated businesses. If drug cartels relied on litigation instead of violence, this is the lawsuit they would file."

This isn’t the first lawsuit that Colorado has faced over legal marijuana. Last December, Nebraska and Oklahoma filed a joint lawsuit against the state, arguing that they have suffered increased law enforcement costs from problems associated with marijuana.

The lawsuit also claims that Colorado does not have the authority to establish its “own policy that is directly counter to federal policy against trafficking in controlled substances” and that by doing so, “the state of Colorado has created a dangerous gap in the federal drug control system.”

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said he has discussed how to address the issue with officials from both states, but stated that “filing a lawsuit is [not] the most constructive way to find a solution to whatever issues there are.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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