Oklahoma and Nebraska filed a joint lawsuit asking the U.S. Supreme Court to find Colorado’s recreational marijuana laws unconstitutional.  The two states claim that Amendment 64 “directly conflicts with federal law and undermines express federal priorities in the arena of drug control and enforcement.”

Colorado’s Amendment 64, which was passed as ballot initiative on November 6, 2012, effectively legalized the sale and usage of marijuana in the state.  According to the lawsuit, Nebraska and Oklahoma have suffered harm from the legalization of marijuana in Colorado in the form of increased “Colorado-sourced marijuana being trafficked” into the states.  This, according to the suit, has led to “increased costs” and a “diversion of limited manpower and resources to arrest and process suspected and convicted felons involved in the increased illegal marijuana trafficking or transportation.”

The two states cite federal anti-drug laws, particularly interstate drug trafficking, and claim the Colorado legalization laws have “created a dangerous gap in the federal drug-controlled system enacted by the United States Congress.” “Marijuana flows from this gap into neighboring states,” the suit says, undermining their marijuana bans, “draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems.”

While it is not uncommon for states to bring suit against another state to the Supreme Court on issues such as environmental protection, the suit to halt another state’s legalization of a federally banned narcotic is a first.  While Colorado Attorney General John Suthers previously opposed Amendment 64, he has called the Nebraska and Oklahoma action “without merit,” and has vowed to “vigorously defend” against the lawsuit attempting to undo it.

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Our Cannabis Practice provides advice on issues related to applicable state law. Cannabis remains an illegal controlled substance under federal law.