Pubdate: Tue, 05 May 2015
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Copyright: 2015 The Denver Post Corp
Author: Mark K. Matthews


Washington - The U.S. Supreme Court is asking advice from a top 
government lawyer on what to do about state weed policy and a 
smoldering fight between Colorado and two nearby states.

Justices on the court made the request Monday as part of their 
official order list. They want U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli 
Jr. to add his thoughts to a complaint filed by Oklahoma and Nebraska 
in December against Colorado, which is one of just a few states to 
allow for the broad sale of marijuana.

How Verrilli responds could influence whether the Supreme Court 
decides to hear the case, though it's a matter of debate about how 
much weight the justices put on the opinion of the solicitor general, 
who represents the federal government before the high court.

Regardless, the next moves by the Supreme Court could have a major 
impact on recent state efforts to relax marijuana laws. A response by 
Verrilli is expected later this year.

The latest fight began five months ago when Nebraska and Oklahoma 
challenged Colorado's commercialization of marijuana - citing 
enforcement problems because of the drug's increased accessibility in 
the region.

A key question the states raised was the responsibility of the 
federal government - a point underscored Monday by the office of 
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.

"Attorney General Pruitt anxiously awaits an explanation from the 
Obama administration as to its continued refusal to enforce federal 
law, specifically the Controlled Substances Act," Aaron Cooper, a 
Pruitt spokesman, said in a statement.

But Colorado says it has the prerogative and that it is also ready to 
hear from Verrilli.

"As we argued in our brief, the federal government's decision to 
defer to Colorado's regulation of marijuana is at the heart of this 
case," Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said in a statement.

"We are pleased that the Supreme Court has asked the United States to 
explain its position on this litigation, especially now that (U.S.) 
Attorney General (Loretta) Lynch has assumed office," she added.

Colorado is not alone in the legal fight. Two pot-friendly states, 
Oregon and Washington, joined the fray a few weeks ago and filed a 
brief in March in support of the state's position.

One pot advocate saw the development as a mixed bag.

"On the one hand, this is concerning since it could be a sign that 
the Court is taking the case more seriously than I think is actually 
merited," Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, said in a statement.

"On the other hand, this could be a good opportunity for the Obama 
administration to further and more clearly articulate the president's 
position that states should be able to legalize marijuana if that's 
what their voters want," he added.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom