Colorado urges U.S. Supreme Court to dismiss interstate pot lawsuit

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 27, 2015 7:23 PM

By Daniel Wallis

DENVER (Reuters) - Colorado's attorney general on Friday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out a lawsuit by Nebraska and Oklahoma which challenges the state's recreational marijuana laws.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said that while she shares concerns about illegal pot activity, her office is committed to defending the state's laws. And she said the issue badly needed leadership at the federal level.

The two states sued neighboring Colorado in the U.S. Supreme Court late last year, complaining that weed is being smuggled across their borders and noting federal law still prohibits the drug, despite Colorado voters legalizing recreational pot use by adults at a landmark ballot in 2012.

"At the same time, I share our border states' concerns regarding illegal marijuana activity, and my office, as well as our partner state and local law enforcement agencies, are committed to stopping marijuana diversion," Coffman said in a statement.

"This lawsuit, however, even if successful, won't fix America's national drug policy - at least not without leadership from Washington, D.C., which remains noticeably absent."

In their challenge, Nebraska and Oklahoma said drugs threaten the health and safety of children and argued that Colorado had created "a dangerous gap" in the federal drug control system.

In Coffman's motion, she said they were seeking to strike down laws and regulations designed to channel the "enormous" demand for marijuana away from the criminal black market and into a licensed and closely-monitored retail system.

She noted that the lawsuit did not object to Colorado's marijuana legalization per se, or its medicinal marijuana sector, just the state's regulation of recreational sales and distribution.

She said the states were suggesting the federal government would backfill the resulting regulatory vacuum, even though the Obama administration has indicated it lacks the resources and inclination to enforce fully the federal pot ban.

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"The Plaintiff States' attempt to selectively manipulate Colorado's marijuana laws ... is a dangerous use of both the Supremacy Clause and the Court's original jurisdiction, and it is unlikely to redress the Plaintiff States' alleged injuries," the motion read.

It also said the two states were wrongly seeking to use the nation's top court as "a tribunal of first resort," rather than an as "appellate 'overseer.'" Nebraska and Oklahoma have two weeks to respond to the filing.

Washington state also voted in 2012 to legalize recreational marijuana use by adults, while Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia followed suit last fall.

(Reporting by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Diane Craft)