On Monday, March 21, 2016 the U.S. Supreme Court decided against hearing Nebraska and Oklahoma v. Colorado in a 6-2 vote.
This week, the Federal government will continue the “hands off” approach when it comes to interfering with a state’s right to legalize marijuana when the Supreme Court decided not to hear Nebraska and Oklahoma v Colorado.
In 2012, Colorado voters amended the state’s constitution to allow the legalization recreational marijuana to be legal. Colorado’s neighboring states of Nebraska and Oklahoma claimed marijuana-related crime increased after this occurred. The two states banded together in an attempt to get the Supreme Court to overturn Colorado’s marijuana laws. We previously reported on this story here.
The Supreme Court judges didn’t specify as to why they wouldn’t hear the case. However, because SCOTUS passed on hearing it, Nebraska and Oklahoma now have the option of taking the case to a federal district court, if they chose to.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt hinted this would be the next step when he stated:
The fact remains — Colorado marijuana continues to flow into Oklahoma, in direct violation of federal and state law. Colorado should do the right thing and stop refusing to take reasonable steps to prevent the flow of marijuana outside of its border. And the Obama administration should do its job under the Constitution and enforce the Controlled Substances Act. Until they do, Oklahoma will continue to utilize every law enforcement tool available to it to ensure that the flow of illegal drugs into our state is stopped.
Attorneys for both the state of Colorado and the Obama administration had previously urged the court not to take up the lawsuit. Meanwhile, a group of former leaders of the DEA sided with Nebraska and Oklahoma and filed a brief in an attempt to persuade the court to accept the case, as marijuana is illegal on the federal level.
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman felt Monday’s decision was a victory for her state, but she also acknowledged that Nebraska and Oklahoma's concerns won't disappear with the court's ruling.
"Although we've had victories in several federal lawsuits over the last month, the legal questions surrounding Amendment 64 [Colorado’s marijuana measure] still require stronger leadership from Washington," Coffman stated.
If Nebraska and Oklahoma decide to continue the suit in U.S. District Court, the process could continue for many years. And in those years, many more states could legalize marijuana. In November, the legalization of marijuana is on the ballot in states like California, Arizona, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Ohio.
“At the end of the day, if officials in Nebraska and Oklahoma are upset about how much time and resources their police are spending on marijuana cases, as they said in their briefs, they should join Colorado in replacing prohibition with legalization,” Tom Angell, a spokesperson for Marijuana Majority, an organization that supports the legalization of marijuana, said in a statement. "That will allow their criminal justice systems to focus on real crime, and it will generate revenue that can be used to pay for healthcare, education and public safety programs."
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC its affiliates, or its employees.
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