Marijuana plants are processed at a warehouse in Denver. (John Leyba, Denver Post file)

Ex-DEA chiefs side with Nebraska and Oklahoma in pot lawsuit vs. Colorado

Nine former Drug Enforcement Administration bosses have filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting Nebraska and Oklahoma’s efforts to end recreational marijuana sales in Colorado.

The former DEA administrators say Colorado’s laws interfere with “a uniform and coherent national drug policy” and harm Nebraska and Oklahoma, which have said their law enforcement budgets are stretched thin by an influx of pot from Colorado.

“Colorado’s law has already drained the plaintiff States’ resources and imperiled the lives, health, and well-being of their citizens,” the DEA administrators’ brief states. “These injuries will only continue to mount as long as Colorado authorizes the injection of a dangerous substance into the stream of commerce.”

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According to a news release from the law firm that filed the brief on behalf of the former administrators, this is the first time that all nine former DEA administrators have banded together on a brief to the Supreme Court.

But, the former administrators have been frequent players in fighting marijuana legalization. In 2012, they wrote a letter to then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, urging him to oppose legalization initiatives in Colorado and Washington. That followed a letter to Holder in 2010 asking him to come out against a California legalization measure.

The brief was filed on the same day that two lawsuits were filed in federal court in Colorado, also seeking to stop recreational marijuana sales in the state. It is unclear whether the timing was coordinated or coincidental.

Nebraska and Oklahoma are asking the Supreme Court to strike down Colorado’s laws licensing and regulating recreational marijuana stores. The states say marijuana from Colorado stores is leaking across the border, creating extra work for police in states where marijuana possession is treated more strictly.

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The first step in the lawsuit is convincing the Supreme Court to hear the case. The former DEA administrators’ brief — known as an amicus brief — urges the high court to take up the case. The administrators say the case is similar to ones the Supreme Court has decided on cross-border pollution or cost-shifting.

“As in these cases, Colorado’s law ultimately passes costs on to other States and their citizens,” the brief argues. “Colorado stands to profit by taxing the marijuana sold within its borders, while the plaintiff States are bound to sustain considerable costs to counteract illegal marijuana trafficking that flows across their borders.”

Colorado has until March 27 to respond to Nebraska and Oklahoma’s lawsuit. If the Supreme Court decides to hear the case, it could take years to resolve.

John Ingold: 303-954-1068, or

Document: Read the text of the lawsuit filed in U.S. Supreme Court