Pubdate: Sun, 10 Jan 2016
Source: Oklahoman, The (OK)
Column: D.C. Notes
Copyright: 2016 The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
Author: Chris Casteel


WASHINGTON - U.S. Supreme Court justices are expected to decide in 
their closed door meeting on Jan. 22 whether to allow Oklahoma and 
Nebraska to sue Colorado over its marijuana laws.

The two states claim their neighbor's licensing of growers and 
sellers has led their own residents to travel to Colorado to buy 
marijuana. That in turn has strained their own law enforcement and 
other resources, they claim.

In a brief filed last week, Oklahoma and Nebraska compared Colorado 
to a drug cartel that is now exporting pot to 36 states.

The Supreme Court has what's called "original jurisdiction" in 
disputes between states. Justices decide what cases can move forward, 
then they hear them and render decisions.

Colorado and the Obama administration have both urged the court to 
reject the case.

Colorado, where voters legalized marijuana in 2012 and set up a 
licensing regime for production and distribution, says Oklahoma and 
Nebraska are simply seeking to invalidate laws with which they don't 
agree. Also, Colorado says, striking down the licensing regime would 
leave the state with legal pot and no way to regulate it.

After Colorado legalized marijuana, the Obama administration 
effectively stopped enforcing the section of the Controlled 
Substances Act that makes marijuana distribution, possession and 
sales federal crimes.

All nine former directors of the Drug Enforcement Administration 
signed a brief urging the Supreme Court to allow Oklahoma and 
Nebraska to sue Colorado over its marijuana legalization and 
licensing. They said the high court was the only branch of the 
federal government that could intervene now.

"Congress has already taken all necessary and appropriate action to 
preempt Colorado's law by enacting the (Controlled Substances Act) 
and by confirming repeatedly over the last forty years that marijuana 
should remain a controlled substance whose manufacture and 
distribution for recreational use is proscribed." their brief states.

"There is no reason to believe that additional congressional 
enactments would be met with greater respect from Colorado."

The former DEA chiefs argued, "Moreover, the President's refusal to 
deploy DEA agents not only violates his constitutional obligation to 
'take care that the laws be faithfully executed' ... but also 
seriously undermines the effectiveness of the agency itself. This 
alone warrants the Court's attention."

Washington and Oregon - two states that have also legalized 
recreational use of marijuana - urged the justices to reject the 
Oklahoma and Nebraska claim.

They said they fear "that if this Court begins accepting original 
jurisdiction in cases like this one, it will threaten States' ability 
to serve as effective laboratories of democracy as to marijuana 
policy or any other controversial topic.

"When, as here, neighboring States disagree about controversial 
topics - e.g., environmental law, tax policy or labor law - (the 
Supreme Court) should not serve as the first forum for resolving such 

If the justices allow the case to move forward, a decision could come 
as early as this summer.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom