The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would dismiss a lawsuit submitted last year by Oklahoma and Nebraska that suggested Colorado’s pot market was creating an environment of interstate lawlessness.
In today’s decision, the Justices shutdown the controversial case in which the plaintiffs argued that the Colorado cannabis trade was in direct violation of the Controlled Substances Act and the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Furthermore, the lawsuit went on to suggest that the implementation of Amendment 64 had caused the two states to suffer “a direct and significant detrimental impact,” as a result of increased drug trafficking into their necks of the woods.
Although many supporters did not believe the case posed a significant threat to the cannabis industry, policy experts like Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority warned that the Court’s final verdict could have “devastating implications for marijuana legalization.” In one of his recent articles, Angell said that a ruling in favor of Nebraska and Oklahoma may not send Colorado back into total prohibition, but it would force officials to close the doors on the state’s commercial operations.
However, in light of today’s ruling, it seems that it is business as usual for Colorado, and perhaps even motivation for other states on the fence about legalization for fear that they will be dragged into similar litigation.
“This is good news for legalization supporters,” Angell told Cannabis Now in an emailed statement. “This case, if it went forward and the court ruled the wrong way, had the potential to roll back many of the gains our movement has achieved to date. And the notion of the Supreme Court standing in the way could have cast a dark shadow on the marijuana ballot measures voters will consider this November. But the justices correctly decided that this lawsuit is without merit and that states should be able to move forward with implementing voter-approved legalization laws even if their neighbors don’t like it.”
Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito contested the Court’s opinion, arguing that the plaintiff states had a solid case that deserved to be heard. “The complaint, on its face, presents a ‘controvers[y] between two or more States’ that this Court alone has authority to adjudicate,” Thomas wrote. “The plaintiff States have alleged significant harms to their sovereign interests caused by another State. Whatever the merit of the plaintiff States’ claims, we should let this complaint proceed further rather than denying leave without so much as a word of explanation.”
Last year, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verilli briefed the Court not to entertain the lawsuit because it was not “an appropriate case for the exercise of this Court’s original jurisdiction.” This meant while the lawsuit implied Colorado was breaking the law, all of the criminal activity was being conducted by individuals and therefore had no business being added to the Supreme Court docket.
Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project, the group instrumental in the passing of Colorado’s Amendment 64, praised the U.S. Supreme Court for its decision.
“This was a meritless lawsuit, and the court made the right decision,” Tvert told Cannabis Now. “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. Colorado has done more to control marijuana than just about any other state in the nation. It will continue to set an example for other states that are considering similar laws in legislatures and at the ballot box.”
While the feeling is that we have heard the last of the pesky Oklahoma and Nebraska Vs. Colorado case, some legal experts say there is a possibility the two states will now pursue litigation in federal district court.
Do you agree that the lawsuit against Colorado lacked merit? Tell us what you think about the court’s decision.