July 12, 2020

U.S. urges justices to pass on Colorado marijuana law dispute

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Jars of marijuana buds sit on the counter at the Denver Kush Club early Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in north Denver. More than two dozen customers took advantage of a new Colorado holiday tradition of marijuana shops drawing customers with discounted weed and holiday gift sets. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Jars of marijuana buds sit on the counter at the Denver Kush Club early Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in north Denver. More than two dozen customers took advantage of a new Colorado holiday tradition of marijuana shops drawing customers with discounted weed and holiday gift sets. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

By Tony Mauro, from The National Law Journal

The Obama administration on Wednesday urged the U.S. Supreme Court not to referee the dispute among Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado over the impact of Colorado’s new law legalizing recreational use of marijuana.

Nebraska and Oklahoma sued Colorado in the Supreme Court nearly a year ago, invoking the court’s “original jurisdiction” to resolve disputes between states. The suit claimed that because of Colorado’s action, which took effect in 2014, both states “have suffered direct and significant harm,” including “undermining plaintiff states’ own marijuana bans, draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems.”

But U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. in a brief filed late Wednesday said the court’s “original jurisdiction,” usually reserved for disputes over boundaries and water rights, was not the appropriate forum for resolving differences among states over marijuana laws.

“Nebraska and Oklahoma have … not sufficiently alleged that Colorado has inflicted the sort of direct injury to their sovereign interests warranting an exercise of original jurisdiction,” the brief said. “At most, they have alleged that third-party lawbreakers are inflicting those injuries, and that Colorado’s legal regime makes it easier for them to do so.”

Verrilli suggests that challenging the law in federal district court is the better route. In fact, groups of sheriffs and property owners have gone to court against the marijuana law, and those cases have been on hold awaiting the Supreme Court’s action.

“The United States is not an indispensable party to this suit because, if other threshold requirements were met, ‘complete relief’ could be awarded Nebraska and Oklahoma without joining the United States,” Verrilli also stated.

The high court asked the solicitor general’s office for its views on the dispute on May 4.

By recommending against taking up the case, Verrilli may have escaped taking a firm position on the Colorado law and whether the Controlled Substances Act pre-empts parts of the law. That federal law criminalizes marijuana sales and possession.

The Obama administration has reacted to state efforts to legalize marijuana by reserving the right to enforce the federal statute, but suggesting that such enforcement may be a low priority in states that have “strong and effective” regulations in place.

Now that the solicitor general’s brief has been filed with the Supreme Court, the justices may decide soon whether or not to allow the litigation to proceed at the high court.

The government’s brief in States of Nebraska and Oklahoma v. Colorado is posted at link below.

IMAGE: Jars of marijuana buds sit on the counter at the Denver Kush Club early Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in North Denver, Colorado. Photo: David Zalubowski/AP

For more on this story go to: http://www.nationallawjournal.com/id=1202745042913/US-Urges-Justices-to-Pass-on-Colorado-Marijuana-Law-Dispute#ixzz3uaeX9jdA

 

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