Obama Says to Leave Colorado Pot Alone As Congress Rejects New Riders to Spending Plan
Although the federal government continues to wage a vicious war against the cannabis plant, the Obama Administration made a move earlier this week that could offer some additional protections for the sanctity of state marijuana laws.
On Wednesday, the Justice Department’s head legal hammer, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., issued a brief advising the U.S. Supreme Court not to waste their time hearing a lawsuit brought forth by Oklahoma and Nebraska begging to dismantle Colorado’s legal pot market. The suggested course of action argues that the nation’s highest court is not a suitable battlefield to hash out such an argument because the state of Colorado is not technically at fault.
“The motion for leave to file a bill of complaint should be denied because this is not an appropriate case for the exercise of this Court’s original jurisdiction,” Verrilli wrote. “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 this Court’s original jurisdiction.”
Earlier last year, Oklahoma and Nebraska got together in a scheme to shut down the Colorado cannabis industry. The states filed a lawsuit, taking it straight to the Supreme Court, which suggested that recreational sales had created an overabundance of drug trafficking in their area — a situation that was taxing law enforcement resources. In an effort of retaliation, Colorado asked the court to dismiss the case, causing the justices to refer the matter to the federal government for guidance.
The Justice Department’s briefing comes with federal implications, as it shows that Uncle Sam, despite an unwillingness to make concrete reforms in regard to this issue, is not too keen on the idea of creating hassles for states that have legalized the leaf.
Marijuana advocates praised the Obama Administration for taking a common position on this matter, an action they hope leads to a precedent.
“This is a meritless and, quite frankly, ludicrous lawsuit,” Mason Tvert with the Marijuana Policy Project told Cannabis Now in an emailed statement. “We hope the court will agree with the solicitor general that it’s not something it should be spending its time addressing. These states are literally trying to prevent Colorado from controlling marijuana within its own borders. If officials in Nebraska and Oklahoma want to have a prohibition-fueled marijuana free-for-all in their states, that’s their prerogative. But most Coloradans would prefer to see marijuana regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.”
Although the Obama Administration tendered some support for legal marijuana, Congress did not exactly put forth the same sentiment earlier this week when it came to including amendments to the Fiscal Year 2016 budget aimed at protecting the cannabis community from federal wrath. All was not lost, however, as the latest omnibus spending bill is set to mostly mimic last year’s plan, which includes riders intended to prevent the Justice Department and their cronies over at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration from prosecuting medical marijuana patients and dispensaries in compliance with state law. Other amendments will keep the DEA from interfering with industrial hemp programs.
Unfortunately, a number of proposed amendments, including those pertaining to veterans and marijuana banking, were completely ignored by congressional leaders. In addition, a rider attached to the Fiscal Year 2015 budget preventing the District of Columbia from launching a recreational cannabis industry found its way back into the budget again this year.
The latest spending bill is expected to be finalized within the next few days and sent to President Obama for a signature.
What do you think? Should states be allowed to control cannabis laws within their own borders?