LAW WEEK COLORADO
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman met today’s deadline to respond to a pot lawsuit filed in the U.S. Supreme Court by the attorneys general of Nebraska and Oklahoma.
The lawsuit seeks to overturn the citizen-initiated and voter-approved laws that enable Colorado to monitor and control recreational marijuana businesses. Colorado’s response asks the court to dismiss the complaint based partially on a lack of standing, suggesting that the states should sue the federal government for lapses in enforcing a federal statute.
While Colorado law does not trump the federal ban, “the question here is whether a state that chooses to legalize marijuana is then prohibited from regulating the market for it,” according to the attorney general’s brief. The filing also notes the plaintiff states ceded that Colorado has the authority to legalize cultivation and consumption of marijuana, a substance with “enormous demand” that was “supplied exclusively through a multi-billion-dollar black market” before states began legalizing the drug.
Striking down the state’s regulatory structure would divert demand back into the black market, according to the brief, which cited four decades of states taking up the burden of enforcing federal marijuana laws.
“The plaintiff states’ attempt to selectively manipulate Colorado’s marijuana laws — leaving legalization intact but eliminating large swaths of state regulatory power—is a dangerous use of both the Supremacy Clause and the (U.S. Supreme) Court’s original jurisdiction, and it is unlikely to redress the plaintiff states’ alleged injuries,” according to the brief.
Nebraska and Oklahoma now have the opportunity to respond to Colorado’s filing within two weeks. At this stage, the only decision before the court is whether it will accept the case for consideration on the merits or dismiss Nebraska and Oklahoma’s complaint, according to a press release from the Attorney General’s Office.
“My office remains committed to defending Colorado’s law,” Coffman said in a press release. “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. 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.”
Read the entire brief here.