Nebraska and Oklahoma filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 18, asking that Colorado’s marijuana legalization be struck down.
The lawsuit claims, “the State of Colorado has created a dangerous gap in the federal drug control system. Marijuana flows from this gap into neighboring states, undermining Plaintiff States’ own marijuana bans, draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems.”
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said the lawsuit is “without merit.”
“Because neighboring states have expressed concern about Colorado-grown marijuana coming into their states, we are not entirely surprised by this action,” Suthers said. “However, it appears the plaintiffs’ primary grievance stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado.”
Colorado was one of the first two states to legalize marijuana. Amendment 64, which allows citizens over 21 to use and possess certain amounts of the drug, passed in 2012.
Nebraska and Oklahoma argue in the lawsuit that Colorado has broken federal law, which considers marijuana a dangerous illegal drug.
However, the two states primarily focus on the “irreparable injury” Colorado’s law has caused them. They claim arrests, vehicle impoundments, contraband seizures, and additional law enforcement responsibilities due to Colorado’s marijuana law have increased since passage of the law, along with the associated costs.
The lawsuit also claims Colorado has not worked to keep marijuana within its borders. Colorado does not track marijuana purchases, nor does it require background checks on customers.
“Nebraska taxpayers have to bear the cost,” Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said. ”We can’t afford to divert resources to deal with Colorado’s problem.”
“Fundamentally, Oklahoma and states surrounding Colorado are being impacted by Colorado’s decision to legalize and promote the commercialization of marijuana which has injured Oklahoma’s ability to enforce our state’s policies against marijuana,” Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said.
Legalization of marijuana “is not implemented in a vacuum,” said Kevin Sabet, co-founder of the national group Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “Colorado’s decisions regarding marijuana are not without consequences to neighboring states, and indeed all Americans,” Sabet said.
As multiple states, including Oregon, have followed Colorado’s lead in legalizing marijuana over the past two years, the lawsuit’s outcome may predict future disputes between states.