The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a lawsuit that the states of Nebraska and Oklahoma filed in order to sue their neighboring state, Colorado. The offended states claim that the decision to change marijuana laws in Colorado in favor of the 2012 legalization has led to an increase in cannabis crossing into their borders. Since neither of these states have legalized the drug, they say an increase in law enforcement, judicial, and penal resources have been needed to deal with this increase.
The Heart of Oklahoma’s and Nebraska’s Grievances
Oklahoma and Nebraska state that Colorado’s law is in direct conflict with federal law, which currently prohibits that possession of all quantities of marijuana. The plaintiff states claim that they must now divert their already limited manpower to handle the higher levels of marijuana trafficking and transportation. They have clarified that they aren’t out to change the marijuana laws in Colorado but rather to change the way that Colorado’s marijuana is regulated and distributed.
Colorado state officials responded that “a state does not violate the sovereign rights of another state by making a policy decision that parts ways with its neighbors.” They say that Nebraska and Oklahoma’s true problem is that the federal government declines to prosecute simple marijuana possession in states where it is legal. They suggest that the states should sue the federal government instead of trying to sue their neighbor state or influence marijuana laws in Colorado.
The Supreme Court’s Rejection of the Lawsuit
Both Colorado and the Justice Department recommended that the Supreme Court not allow the case, stating that “entertaining the type of dispute at issue here, essentially that one state’s laws make it more likely that third parties will violate federal and state law in another state, would represent a substantial and unwarranted expansion of (the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction).” The Supreme Court agreed and the lawsuit was denied by the high court without explanation, although conservative justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito were willing to hear the case.
Colorado’s Marijuana Laws Encouraged
Tom Angell, who is chairman of the Marijuana Majority advocacy group, was happy to hear the court’s decision. He says “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. 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.”
Legalization in those states could prove to be very reasonable and profitable. They would not only be able to save money on resources but they could also use those resources to deal with more serious and legitimate crime. The states could make money off the tax from marijuana sales to fund much needed programs as well as law enforcement, drug education, and therapy programs. Decriminalization is also another option, as recently illustrated by
New Orleans who just last week decided to begin giving out fines for minor marijuana possession instead of incarceration. While Nebraska and Oklahoma may not be quite ready to adopt the “if you can’t beat them, join them” philosophy, it seems they will have to accept legal progress in their neighboring state of Colorado.