(Denver Post file)

Colorado gets extension from SCOTUS on marijuana lawsuit

The U.S. Supreme Court has given Colorado an extra month to respond to a lawsuit that claims the state is polluting its neighbors with marijuana.

Colorado had been due to file its response by Monday. The state now has until March 27 to file its response, according to a one-sentence order posted last Tuesday. No other details about the extension were available.

In what could be a history-making case, Nebraska and Oklahoma have sued Colorado over marijuana legalization. The suit seeks to overturn Colorado’s first-in-the-country regulations for recreational marijuana stores, arguing that the stores both violate federal law and have caused a flood of Colorado-grown marijuana into neighboring states. Nebraska and Oklahoma said their law enforcement budgets have been stretched thin trying to police the influx.

Because the lawsuit involves a dispute between states, it was filed directly to the Supreme Court, under what is known as the high court’s “original jurisdiction.”

When the lawsuit was filed late last year, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers vowed to defend Colorado’s law vigorously, arguing that Nebraska and Oklahoma’s complaint “stems from nonenforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado.” Suthers has since left office due to term limits. Newly elected Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has said she also will fight the lawsuit.

On Monday, a spokeswoman for Coffman said the attorney general’s office requested the extension because it needs more time to study the complex legal issues involved.

“This is a routine practice when there are novel issues that require additional research,” spokeswoman Carolyn Tyler said.

If the Supreme Court does agree to hear the case, it could take years to resolve.

John Ingold: 303-954-1068, jingold@denverpost.com or twitter.com/johningold

This story was first published on DenverPost.com