Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning speaks at a news conference in Lincoln, Neb., on Thursday, annoucing that he and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt are filing a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court seeking a declaration that Colorado's legalization of marijuana violates the U.S. Constitution. (Nati Harnik, The Associated Press)

Editorial: Colorado scapegoat for other states’ black-market drug issues

No one has ever doubted the federal government has the power to shut down Colorado’s commercial marijuana outlets, as well as its manufacturing and growing facilities.

Federal agents could close every medical marijuana facility, too. But they have chosen not to, wisely deferring to the popular will in Colorado and other states that have legalized marijuana for recreational or medicinal use.

Yet that decision obviously rankles the attorneys general of Nebraska and Oklahoma, who seem to have a lot of time on their hands. They’ve filed a lawsuit whose goal seems to be to prod the federal government into a crackdown on Colorado’s commercial pot businesses, or at least prompt a court order against continued implementation of Amendment 64.

These two Republicans seem to have a highly selective appreciation of federalism — which is to say no appreciation whatsoever when it comes to drug laws.


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Their excuse is that Colorado’s laws undermine the U.S. war on drugs and create enforcement problems for their own states.

“In passing and enforcing Amendment 64,” the lawsuit said, “the state of Colorado has created a dangerous gap in the federal drug control measures enacted by the United States Congress. Marijuana flows from this gap into neighboring states, undermining [their] own marijuana bans, draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems.”

You’d think those two states had never known an illegal pot market until Colorado changed its laws. And if Colorado’s laws have put so much stress on their criminal justice systems, why weren’t they willing to quantify it in their brief? Is the U.S. Supreme Court, which must decide whether to take this case pitting two states against a third, simply supposed to accept their word?

Let’s hope the court refuses to take up the case, thus ending this meddling legal venture. As Colorado Attorney General John Suthers — no fan of Amendment 64 himself — correctly notes, “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.”


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It’s hard to believe the Supreme Court would want to act as the enforcer of federal supremacy on marijuana law when the executive branch itself has shown so little interest in asserting its authority. Nebraska and Oklahoma are straining to find arguments against a law that they don’t like in a neighboring state. Sorry, but it’s none of their business.

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This story was first published on DenverPost.com