The U.S. Supreme Court, by a 6-2 vote, declined on March 21 to hear the petition of Nebraska and Oklahoma challenging neighbor state Colorado's marijuana laws.
The state attorneys of Nebraska and Oklahoma contended that since Colorado's decriminalization of marijuana there had been an influx of the substance into their states, where the controversial plant remains illegal.
The two complainant states argued that Colorado's $100-million-per-month marijuana business, which exported thousands of pounds of the drug to 34 states in 2014, is causing marijuana to be smuggled within their own states. That smuggling threatens the health and safety of their residents, they argued, in addition to other grievances such as creating a "dangerous gap" in the nation's federal drug control system.
"If this entity were based south of our border, the federal government would prosecute it as a drug cartel," claim Nebraska and Oklahoma.
On the other hand, as stated in Colorado's brief, the defendant state claims that, among others, Colorado has not invaded any rights of the plaintiff states and that their injuries are caused by third parties who violate state and federal laws, which are reasons why the case does not require the court's original jurisdiction and that plaintiff states lack standing.
The court did not explain why it declined to take the case.
In 2012, Nebraska and Oklahoma did not challenge Colorado's decision to change its state constitution and legalize marijuana use and possession. However, the two states claimed that parts of that law contradicted federal law, causing a multitude of detrimental effects on the welfare of the residents of the complainant states.
"Nebraska and Oklahoma concede that Colorado has power to legalize the cultivation and use of marijuana — a substance that for decades has seen enormous demand and has, until recently, been supplied exclusively through a multibillion dollar black market," says Colorado. "Yet the plaintiff states seek to strike down the laws and regulations that are designed to channel demand away from this black market and into a licensed and closely monitored retail system."
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt remarked that Colorado marijuana that flows into Oklahoma is still a direct violation of state and federal law and that Colorado should address this flow of marijuana outside its borders.
Meanwhile, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said that the court's decision does not bar new challenges against Colorado.
"This was a meritless lawsuit, and the court made the right decision," says marijuana advocate Mason Tvert. "States have every right to regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana, just as Nebraska and Oklahoma have the right to maintain their failed prohibition policies."
Aside from Nebraska and Oklahoma, some law enforcement officers from other nearby states — Kansas and New Mexico — also expressed grievances stemming from Colorado's liberal marijuana laws.
Photo: Carlos Gracia | Flickr