The states of Nebraska and Oklahoma appealed to the Supreme Court of the US (SCOTUS) to overrule the legalization of marijuana in Colorado. On March 21, 2016, SCOTUS declined to hear a case filed directly by Nebraska and Oklahoma protesting the laws passed in Colorado in 2012 that legalized medical and recreational marijuana. The summary of the case was reported in a New York Times article by Adam Liptak on March 21, 2016. The title of the article was “Supreme Court Declines to Hear Challenge to Colorado’s Marijuana Laws”. SCOTUS denied the bill of complaint, with Justice Thomas and Justice Alioto dissenting.
The State of Colorado authorizes, oversees, protects and profits from a sprawling $100-million-per-month marijuana growing, processing and retailing organization that exported thousands of pounds of marijuana to some 36 states in 2014,” two neighboring states, Nebraska and Oklahoma, told the court. “If this entity were based south of our border, the federal government would prosecute it as a drug cartel.
In an Amicus Curiae filing by the Solicitor General of the US, and General Counsel of Record, Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. provided SCOTUS with a thorough review of the federal government’s position on federal prosecution of marijuana statutes in states that had legalized marijuana for medical use. Verrilli recommended that SCOTUS not hear the case, and SCOTUS agreed. Verrilli’s comments outlined the arguments in the filing.
Nebraska and Oklahoma essentially contend that Colorado’s authorization of licensed intrastate marijuana production and distribution increases the likelihood that third parties will commit criminal offenses in Nebraska and Oklahoma by bringing marijuana purchased from licensed entities in Colorado into those states. But they do not allege that Colorado has directed or authorized any individual to transport marijuana into their territories in violation of their laws.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has instructed its field operations to not pursue federal cases against medical marijuana in states that have legalized it.
Section 538 of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015, Pub. L. No. 113-125, 128 Stat. 2217 provides that “none of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to [specified states] to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
There are still other avenues for Nebraska and Oklahoma to pursue a ruling by SCOTUS to overturn Colorado’s marijuana laws, as well as similar laws passed for the state of Washington, Washington, DC and several other states and localities that permit medical or recreational marijuana use. The FDA still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug along with heroin, and LSD that have no recognized medical application and a high potential for abuse. The FDA and CDC have now conceded that marijuana does have legitimate medical uses, and efforts to reclassify marijuana into a lower FDA classification are underway.
The full legalization of marijuana is continuing to progress. Once that is done, the huge number of people incarcerated for marijuana possession and minor distribution cases will be released. The prosecutions of marijuana laws have destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of citizens with social and moral consequences far beyond any damage done by the use of marijuana. It is time to express your views to your members of Congress regarding marijuana legalization.