Pubdate: Sat, 20 Dec 2014
Source: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
Copyright: 2014 Associated Press
Author: Nicolas Riccardi, Associated Press


Social Conservatives, Law Enforcement Ready for Court Fight.

DENVER - Despite growing public support for legalizing marijuana, a 
lawsuit filed by Nebraska and Oklahoma shows that at least two 
segments of American society are prepared to fight the idea before 
the nation's highest court - social conservatives and law enforcement.

The lawsuit seeks to overturn Colorado's experiment in legalized 
recreational pot, alleging that the two conservative states are being 
overrun with Colorado marijuana that is making it harder for them to 
enforce their own drug laws.

Nebraska Attorney General Jim Bruning framed it as a public-safety 
issue, though the complaint provides little data to support its claim 
that Colorado pot is pouring into neighboring states.

The case emerges at a time when polls show growing public support for 
legal weed. Even Congress this week started to ease restrictions on 
the drug, barring the federal government from interfering with the 23 
states that allow it for medical uses.

National law-enforcement groups have staunchly opposed the 
legalization of marijuana. The lawsuit filed to the U.S. Supreme 
Court cheered some police in Colorado who have been frustrated at the 
public's wide acceptance of that state's recreational marijuana 
market, despite some examples of people overdosing on 
high-concentration edibles.

"When you work in the public-safety industry, you're impacted by this 
all the time," said Jim Gerhardt, vice president of the Colorado Drug 
Investigators Association. "We're seeing it. The firefighters are 
seeing it. The hospitals are seeing it. But the general public can be 

Mason Tvert, the pro-marijuana activist who helped push legalization 
in Colorado, said he was not surprised by the resistance from 
Oklahoma and Nebraska, two socially conservative states that were 
reluctant to repeal Prohibition.

"When you think about who are the two types of people who'd never 
want to try marijuana, it's people who are looking at it morally, 
through religion ... and that law-enforcement attitude that this is 
the law and we want to keep it," Tvert said.

The legalization movement, he added, has seen some of its stiffest 
resistance in conservative, religious states in the Deep South and in 
Nebraska, where activists were unable to get enough signatures to put 
a medical-marijuana measure on the 2012 ballot.

Law-enforcement agencies have long said anecdotally that they are 
making more marijuana arrests and seizing more of the drug since 
Colorado voters legalized the drug. But there's no way to know 
exactly how much legal pot is leaving the state.

In a recent report, the agency known as the Rocky Mountain High 
Intensity Drug Trafficking Area wrote that the amount of Colorado pot 
seized on highways increased from an annual average of 2,763 pounds 
between 2005 and 2008 to an average of 3,690 pounds from 2009 to 
2013. The weed was headed for at least 40 different states.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom