While the marijuana community spent much of the weekend in a haze of anticipation over whether the U.S. Supreme Court would decide to settle a litigious beef put forth by Oklahoma and Nebraska suggesting “irreparable damages” as result of drug trafficking spawned by the Colorado cannabis trade, sources indicate that the nation’s highest court has yet to determine whether will it put the case up for review.
The U.S. Supreme Court docket revealed last week that Nebraska and Oklahoma V. Colorado has been scheduled for a review hearing on Friday, March 4. Although many expected to learn the outcome today, there was nothing published to the Court’s website in the morning hours to indicate that a conference ever took place. It was later revealed that the decision had been made to postpone the meeting until later this month.
This makes the third time the Court has scheduled a hearing for the Colorado marijuana case in 2016 and then decided to put it off for another couple of weeks. The other two conferences were slated for January 22 and February 19, with last month’s meeting sidelined due to the unforeseen death on Justice Antonin Scalia. There is speculation that the latest gathering may have been rescheduled due that empty seat, and that the Court may be waiting to replace the late Justice before digging into such a controversial case.
At the core of this dispute, the Plaintiffs (Oklahoma and Nebraska) believe the passing of Amendment 64 is a violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. They argue that Colorado’s retail pot market has spawned a wicked influx of drug trafficking into those areas that has become a burden to both law enforcement and the taxpayers. Basically, the Plaintiffs are asking for the Supreme Court to shutdown the Colorado cannabis experiment because it has “created a dangerous gap in the federal drug control system.”
Last year, the Obama Administration advised the Supreme not to entertain the lawsuit because it did not feel it was “an appropriate case for the exercise of this Court’s original jurisdiction.” A briefing submitted by U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. recommended the dismissal of the case because the criminal actions outlined in the complaint are being conducted by individuals and not by the state.
No one seems to have any idea at this juncture whether the Solicitor General’s guidance will have any impact on the Court’s decision to hear the case. The fact that it is still being considered, however, is concerning.
Unfortunately, while much of the cannabis industry remains cavalier over the potential outcome of this case, the reality is that a ruling against Colorado could bring about major changes to the concept of legalization. All it will take is the agreement of four justices to pick the case up for review, and that will launch a nauseating threat to the existence of the commercial cultivation and sale of recreational marijuana.
“If the plaintiffs ultimately prevail against Colorado, only the state’s regulatory system for marijuana production and sales could be struck down, leaving possession and personal cultivation legal but unregulated,” Tom Angell, founder of the Marijuana Majority, wrote in his analysis of the situation.
However, if the Court makes the decision later this month to dismiss the lawsuit, it could prevent similar lawsuits against legal marijuana states from being fed to the Supreme Court in the future.
What do you think? Do Oklahoma and Nebraska have a case?