Nebraska, Oklahoma sue Colorado over legal marijuana

Nebraska, Oklahoma sue Colorado over legal marijuana
Christie Lunsford of Dixie Elixirs & Edibles in Denver holds a container of marijuana trim that is used to infuse products sold there. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

A pair of states on Thursday filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to strike down Colorado's laws that legalize recreational marijuana. 

Citing federal antidrug laws, particularly interstate drug trafficking, Nebraska and Oklahoma said in the lawsuit that Colorado's  marijuana laws have "created a dangerous gap in the federal drug-control system enacted by the United States Congress."

In 2012, Coloradans voted in support of Amendment 64, which legalized the recreational sale and use of up to an ounce of marijuana for any resident over the age of 21. Moreover, under Amendment 64, Coloradans can grow up to six marijuana plants for personal use.

"The result of increased Colorado-sourced marijuana being trafficked in [Nebraska and Oklahoma] due to the passage and implementation of Colorado Amendment 64 has been the diversion of a significant amount of the personnel time, budget, and resources" of those states, wrote Nebraska Atty. Gen. Jon Bruning and Oklahoma Atty. Gen. E. Scott Pruitt in the court filing. 

Pruitt on Thursday said his state had been having trouble enforcing its policies against marijuana since Colorado made it legal.

"The illegal products being distributed in Colorado are being trafficked across state lines thereby injuring neighboring states like Oklahoma and Nebraska. As the state's chief legal officer, the attorney general's office is taking this step to protect the health and safety of Oklahomans," Pruitt said in a statement.

Colorado Atty. Gen. John Suthers, who leaves office next month, vowed on Thursday to defend the state's legal recreational marijuana laws.
"Because neighboring states have expressed concern about Colorado-grown marijuana coming into their states, we are not entirely surprised by this action," Suthers said. 
Suthers, a Republican who opposed Amendment 64, added that "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."
"We believe this suit is without merit and we will vigorously defend against it in the U.S. Supreme Court,” Suthers said. 

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but several states including Washington, Oregon and Alaska have passed laws legalizing recreational marijuana sales.

Smart Approaches Marijuana, which advocates against marijuana use, lauded the lawsuit from Nebraska and Oklahoma.

"Already, surrounding states have seen a surge in marijuana-related trafficking activity. Dealers and traffickers are openly bragging about how they have been able to smuggle state-sanctioned marijuana out of Colorado," Kevin A. Sabet, the group's president, said in a statement.
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