Supreme Court Will Discuss Marijuana Case on Friday

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The U.S. Supreme Court is set to discuss a case with potentially devastating implications for marijuana legalization.

On Friday, the Court has announced, the justices will weigh whether to take up a lawsuit that Nebraska and Oklahoma filed against Colorado over its legal cannabis market.

The support of four justices is needed for the case to move forward. While it is unknown where the current members of the Court will come down on granting review, it has been widely speculated that the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia likely leaves the plaintiffs with one fewer vote than they otherwise would have had.

In the lawsuit, which was initially filed in December 2014, the attorneys general of Nebraska and Oklahoma compare marijuana coming over their borders from neighboring Colorado to pollution. They say that as a result, their law enforcement agencies, courts and jails are being unduly overburdened.

If the Court agrees to hear the case on Friday, it will mark the beginning of a potentially years-long process. Because the suit was filed directly at the Supreme Court instead of working its way through lower courts first, the next step will likely be for the justices to appoint a “special master,” who would perform the role of a trial court by establishing a factual record and gathering evidence. He or she would then make a recommendation on a ruling for the Court.

If the plaintiffs ultimately prevail against Colorado, only the state’s regulatory system for marijuana production and sales could be struck down, leaving possession and personal cultivation legal but unregulated, an outcome that advocates say could leave Nebraska and Oklahoma in an even worse position than they started with.

The case was previously scheduled to be considered during the Court’s January 22 and February 19 conferences. It is unclear whether the justices got around to discussing the case at all at the former meeting, and the latter was canceled due to memorial services for Justice Scalia.

The Obama administration, through the U.S. solicitor general, has urged the Court to reject the case, as have officials from Oregon and Washington State, which also have legal marijuana laws and could be affected by a ruling against Colorado.

About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for Marijuana.com. Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, which works to ensure that elected officials and the media treat legalization as a serious, mainstream issue. Marijuana Majority led the effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution telling the federal government to respect state marijuana laws, and orchestrated the first-ever endorsement for marijuana legalization by a U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens). Previously, Tom worked for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (All organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)

7 Comments

  1. Robert Proctor on

    If SCOTUS strikes down CO’s regulatory system for marijuana production and sales, the unregulated market doesn’t comply with the Cole letter and may lead to USDOJ’s intervention in CO, despite marijuana’s liberation there. But as the wheels of justice turn slowly, the only thing being ground will be bud in the states that embrace the future of cannabis.
    Prohibition isn’t going down without a fight – fighting past decade’s battles. But fall it will.

  2. I think they should be careful what they wish for. If NE and OK prevail, legalization without regulation could just open the flood gates. Weed from legal states might really start pouring out, as opposed to a trickle now. It might just force the feds to reconsider rescheduling. After all, a majority of states now have some form of medical or recreational marijuana. Regardless of what threats might be made, the feds just don’t have the resources to make more than a token gesture toward shutting things down. It’s not like they have any leverage. The feds couldn’t, for example, threaten to not let marijuana businesses use banks, nor could they threaten to not allow tax deductions. The most they could do is ramp up raids, which have never completely stopped. Who knows, a win for NE and OK might just be the beginning of the end of prohibition.

    • they could ramp up raids. what would the feds do when the state police swat teams enforce state law and not let the feds in to fk with legal state business?

  3. Lawrence Goodwin on

    All of this is a tremendous waste of time. This case would not exist if the Schedule I “marihuana” fraud in the 1970 Controlled Substances Act—especially the “no accepted medical value” part—was repealed 40 years ago like it should’ve been. You know, right after President Richard Nixon—chief purveyor of the idea that marijuana smoking is “Public Enemy Number One”—was forced to resign office in disgrace. America’s bravest journalists MUST expose the massive amounts of corruption behind continued inaction among key members of the United States Congress who are blocking repeal. Time is of the essence. Every day literally counts. Famed advocate Jack Herer was quoted: “Cannabis will be the future of mankind [and womankind], or there won’t be a future.”

  4. Chris Seekins on

    If they issue this as pollution it would be ridiculous unless there are getting dirty hydro though imagine the courts saying that medication is pollution. I kind of think with the rate they are sold out to Big Pharma this would be ironic.

  5. Lauren Glenn on

    It could also rule against them and open the door for more states to make it legal…… here’s hoping…..

  6. Joseph Muhammad on

    I am not aware of any cases of states suing other states for pollution. Considering how agricultural Nebraska is, you think it would have sued both Kansas City and Denver by now and maybe a few others because of all that pollution. If I understand the logic of Nebraska and Oklahoma, if my state bans something – for example, certain types of very strong hard alcohol such as Everclear – but a neighboring state has not banned it and citizens from my state go to the neighboring state and buy the Everclear and then bring it back to my state and someone gets drunk on it and dies from alcohol poisoning or crashes their car and kills other people, then my state government can sue the other state government? Oh the lawyers are gonna love this but I am not sure it is Constitutional. Anyhow, shame on Nebraska and Oklahoma corrupt governments for serving the interests of the pharmaceutical companies rather than their citizens. Shame, shame, shame.

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