Federal Government Sides With Colorado Marijuana Reform

By Zachary Siegel 12/17/15

Sorry Oklahoma and Nebraska, your case is being ignored because it has no merit.

gavel pot leaf.jpg

Despite the Obama administration's opposition to marijuana legalization, it's urging the Supreme Court to deny a lawsuit from Nebraska and Oklahoma that seeks to declare Colorado’s pot legalization unconstitutional.

Seven months ago, Nebraska and Oklahoma filed a suit against Colorado, arguing its cannabis legalization has increased marijuana-related crime in their respective states. The states say enforcing their own marijuana laws has become an increasing drain on police resources.

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., in a recent memo, essentially said to ignore the lawsuit because to do otherwise "would represent a substantial and unwarranted expansion of this court's original jurisdiction."

In the same memo Verrilli Jr. wrote, that Colorado’s law that allows people to possess one ounce or less of marijuana is hardly the cause of “great loss or any serious injury in terms of law-enforcement funding or other expenditures," essentially telling the states to grow a pair.

That the federal government stepped in to side with Colorado is an historic move in favor of marijuana reform.

Art Way, Colorado State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said that Nebraska and Oklahoma’s problems are of their own making. “Nebraska and Oklahoma’s primary problems are their own punitive policies regarding marijuana use and possession.”

Jolene Forman, staff attorney for the Drug Policy Alliance, said, “We are pleased the DOJ agrees that this lawsuit borders on the frivolous. States have historically been allowed to establish their own criminal laws. Forman continued, “Moreover, Colorado is putting resources into ensuring its policies follow DOJ guidelines and has worked extensively with the DOJ towards this goal.”

Perhaps Oklahoma and Nebraska can remedy their problem by not wasting their time busting people who smoke pot.

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.