The nation’s highest court rejected Monday on a 6-2 vote a legal challenge against Colorado’s marijuana laws from two neighboring states. Oklahoma and Nebraska have complained that ever since Colorado has legalized marijuana, illegal marijuana has become an issue within their borders.
The two states argued that Colorado now benefits from a $100-million-per-month business that had supplied three dozen states with thousands of pounds of marijuana in 2014. In Colorado, it is now legal for adults to buy and use one ounce of the substance.
The plaintiffs noted that if the marijuana producer’s headquarters were located south of their border, federal investigators would have deemed it a drug cartel. Furthermore, the two states noted that Colorado’s legalization laws infringe the Controlled Substances Act, which prohibits the use and commercialization of marijuana nationwide.
They asked the high court to rule that Colorado’s legislation was preempted by the Controlled Substances Act.
Marijuana use for medical purposes was first legalized in California in the mid-90s. Since then 22 other states adopted similar legislation. But four states including Colorado took things a bit further and legalized the drug for recreational purposes.
Marijuana supporters cheered at the latest decision. They believe that if the case had gone forward, many of their previous efforts to push for the legalization would have been rolled back.
The Department of Justice instructed prosecutors to seek and prosecute the entities that traffic illegal drugs, and to leave medical marijuana users alone.
In 2015, the Supreme Court requested that U.S. Solicitor Gen. Donald Verrilli should settle the conflict sparked by the federal law between the three states on marijuana legalization issue.
In December, Verrilli advised the court to reject the lawsuit. He argued that there was no ‘direct’ harm done to Nebraska and Oklahoma by Colorado. Plus, nothing stops them from policing the drug within their borders, he added.
The two states concluded that DOJ has refused to enforce the federal legislation and it is now allowing it to be “dismantled by piecemeal nullification.”
The two justices that dissented, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Clarence Thomas, believe that the two states’ sovereign interests were significantly harmed by the actions of their neighbor in the West. Thomas said that it was better to allow the case to go further rather than rejecting it without any explanation.
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