Monday, March 28, 2016

Challenge to Colorado marijuana laws rejected

Our Recent Supreme Court Victory and What It Means | NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform:

March 28, 2016 - "The recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to refuse to hear a challenge to the Colorado marijuana legalization law was a significant victory for those who favor legalizing marijuana and a significant set-back for those who thought the federal courts might help them hold on to the increasingly unpopular policy of criminal prohibition. The name of the case was States of Nebraska and Oklahoma v. State of Colorado....

The Supreme Court ... has what is called 'original jurisdiction' to hear cases and controversies arising between the states. One state may petition the court to hear a suit against another state without having to start at the trial court level.... This is the procedure attempted when the state attorneys general from Oklahoma and Nebraska, in late 2014, filed suit against the state of Colorado, challenging the validity of the Colorado marijuana legalization law.

"Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a Republican, and Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, also a Republican, alleged that marijuana from Colorado was finding its way illegally to their states, causing their courts, law enforcement agencies and jails to be overburdened....

"'The state of Colorado authorizes, oversees, protects and profits from a sprawling $100-million-per-month marijuana growing, processing and retailing organization that exported thousands of pounds of marijuana to some 36 states in 2014,' they said. 'If this entity were based south of our border, the federal government would prosecute it as a drug cartel.'

"Attorneys for both the state of Colorado (Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, a Republican) and the Obama administration urged the Supreme Court not to accept the case, saying it was not a conflict between the states and thus not eligible for 'original jurisdiction.' They argued the case involved harm allegedly being caused by individual lawbreakers, not the state of Colorado....

"On March 21, the Supreme Court announced they would refuse to hear the case on a 6-2 vote (four votes are required for the court to agree to hear a case), with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito in the minority.

"The decision to reject the case on original jurisdiction does not resolve the underlying substantive issues, but it means the two states, if they wish to pursue this line of reasoning further, must first file their suit at the trial court level and work through the court of appeals, before again asking the Supreme Court to rule. There will be no legal short cut for this challenge."

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