Feds: Ignore pot suit: Colorado Marijuana Lawsuit

Published: December 17, 2015

Feds: Ignore pot suit: Colorado Marijuana Lawsuit, The U.S. government has taken Colorado’s side in a dispute with neighboring states over marijuana legalization and is urging the Supreme Court to not hear a major challenge to the state’s recreational cannabis laws.

The new brief filed Wednesday by U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. could have a significant impact on the Supreme Court’s willingness to hear the case against Colorado, drug law experts say.

The Solicitor General’s brief comes seven months after the Supreme Court first asked the top government lawyer for an opinion on the lawsuit filed against Colorado’s legal cannabis laws by neighboring states Nebraska and Oklahoma. The new brief addresses Nebraska and Oklahoma’s complaint — and questions its place within the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction.

“The motion for leave to file a bill of complaint should be denied because this is not an appropriate case for the exercise of this Court’s original jurisdiction,” the brief says. “Entertaining the type of dispute at issue here – essentially that one State’s laws make it more likely that third parties will violate federal and state law in another State – would represent a substantial and unwarranted expansion of this Court’s original jurisdiction.”

The new brief ultimately says Nebraska and Oklahoma’s proposed lawsuit isn’t the type of claim the Supreme Court normally hears, according to Robert Mikos, a professor at Vanderbilt Law and an expert on federalism and drug law.

“They hit on a very important issue without having to directly weigh in on the merits of the suit,” Mikos said. “The thrust of the argument from the SG is that the Supreme Court shouldn’t be the first one to hear this dispute.”

Marijuana law expert Sam Kamin said the Solicitor General’s brief is “great news for Colorado.”

“Oklahoma and Nebraska allege that our state regulations are preempted by federal law,” said Kamin, a law professor at the University of Denver, “and here we have a statement from the federal government’s highest legal official saying that’s not the case.”

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