Nebraska and Oklahoma Suing Colorado Over Legal Marijuana

By Victoria Kim 12/19/14

Colorado's neighbors says the state doesn't have the right to buck federal law.

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Colorado’s neighbors to the east, Nebraska and Oklahoma, filed a lawsuit against Colorado with the Supreme Court Thursday in an attempt to reverse the law that legalized the use and limited possession of marijuana by anyone over 21 in the state.

The neighboring states argue 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.”

“Marijuana flows from this gap into neighboring states, undermining Plaintiff States’ own marijuana bans, draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems,” the states claim in the lawsuit.

The states claim that Colorado has violated the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution by diverting from the federal stance on marijuana, which is that the drug has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

The lawsuit does not target Colorado’s separate medical marijuana system, which was approved in 2000. Nebraska and Oklahoma’s complaint is about the state’s recreational system, approved by voters in 2012, under which stores are able to sell up to an ounce of marijuana to any adult resident of Colorado, or a quarter ounce to any adult from out of state. So far in 2014, the state has made more than $300 million in sales.

Another grievance with legal marijuana in the complaint is the “irreparable injury” that legal pot sales in Colorado have inflicted on neighboring states. The suing states claim that they have suffered increased law enforcement costs from problems associated with marijuana.

“Nebraska taxpayers have to bear the cost,” said Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning at a press conference Thursday. “We can’t afford to divert resources to deal with Colorado’s problem.”

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers responded that the Nebraska and Oklahoma’s lawsuit is “without merit.”

“Because neighboring states have expressed concern about Colorado-grown marijuana coming into their states, we are not entirely surprised by this action,” Suthers said. “However, it appears the plaintiffs’ primary grievance stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado.”

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

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr