COLORADO: States file suit to declare marijuana law unconstitutional

By Beecher Threatt

On Thursday (Dec. 18) Colorado Attorney General John Suthers announced that the states of Nebraska and Oklahoma filed an original action in the United States Supreme Court against the State of Colorado alleging its legalization of marijuana violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment that marijuana legalization is unconstitutional. A state may invoke original jurisdiction in the Supreme Court when suing another state.
In a statement announcing the lawsuit, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said, “Colorado has created a system that legalizes, promotes and facilitates distribution of marijuana. The illegal products of this system are heavily trafficked into neighboring states, causing an unnecessary burden on the state of Nebraska.”
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt represents the state of Oklahoma in the suit.
“Because neighboring states have expressed concern about Colorado-grown marijuana coming into their states, we are not entirely surprised by this action,” Suthers said. “However, it appears the plaintiffs’ primary grievance stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado. We believe this suit is without merit and we will vigorously defend against it in the U.S. Supreme Court.”
According to the complaint, “In passing and enforcing Amendment 64, the State of Colorado has created a dangerous gap in the federal drug control system enacted by the United States Congress. Marijuana flows from this gap into neighboring states, undermining Plaintiff States’ own marijuana bans, draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems.”
The Supremacy Clause declares that federal law is the supreme law of the land. The lawsuit contends the federal Controlled Substances Act therefore trumps Colorado law.