Marijuana Lawsuit Filed by Sheriffs Aims to Kill Amendment 64

A Facebook photo of Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith. Additional images and more below.
A Facebook photo of Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith. Additional images and more below.
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Update below: It's become a trend to file a lawsuit in an attempt to dismantle Colorado's marijuana laws.

First came the states of Nebraska and Oklahoma, which submitted a complaint to the U.S. Supreme Court in December.

Then, last month, the Washington, D.C.-based Safe Streets Alliance announced two lawsuits on behalf of clients in Colorado — homeowners who say a nearby marijuana grow makes horse riding on their property less pleasant and a Frisco Holiday Inn claiming that the proposed opening of a pot shop nearby has already cost it business.

The latest plaintiffs of a suit being announced at this hour? A group of sheriffs from Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska fronted by Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith, who was among the faces of an unsuccessful suit put forward in 2013 on a different topic: Colorado's gun laws.

The gun-law effort failed in June 2014, when a judge determined that rules banning magazines that held more than fifteen rounds, among several other challenged regs, were constitutional.

A file photo from January 1, 2014, when limited recreational marijuana sales became legal in Colorado.
A file photo from January 1, 2014, when limited recreational marijuana sales became legal in Colorado.
Photo by Brandon Marshall

But that hasn't stopped Smith and eleven other plaintiffs from suing Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper on constitutional grounds when it comes to Amendment 64, a measure passed by Colorado voters in 2012 that legalized limited marijuana sales for recreational purposes.

Here's a paragraph from the introduction to the lawsuit, seen below in its entirety.

Amendment 64 pursues only one goal – legalization of marijuana — a goal which is diametrically opposed to the many objectives which Congress has established, and repeatedly reestablished, for the United States’ anti-drug policy and practice for marijuana as a controlled substance. If allowed to continue in effect, Amendment 64’s legalization and commercialization scheme will conflict with and undermine the federal government’s careful balance of anti-drug enforcement priorities and objectives. It will permit and enable at least hundreds — if not many thousands — of marijuana cultivation, distribution, sales, and consumption operations. It will permit and enable vast quantities of marijuana with a commercial value of billions of dollars to be placed into commerce. It will directly conflict with express federal policy which prohibits entirely the possession and use for any purpose of certain controlled substances, including marijuana products. Finally, it will interfere with vital foreign policy interests by disrupting the United States’ relationship with other countries which have entered into treaties and protocols with the United States to control trafficking in marijuana and other controlled substances.

Cannabis advocates are already dismissing the substance of the complaint.

Here's a comment e-mailed to Westword by the Marijuana Majority's Tom Angell:

“While a growing majority of Americans supports replacing failed prohibition policies with legalization, there will always be some people who desperately try to cling to what’s familiar. The people of Colorado and other states have spoken, and now these prohibitionists who lost at the ballot box on Election Day are trying to overturn the will of the voters by making a last-ditch attempt in the courts. They are wrong about marijuana policy and they are on the wrong side of history.”

Update: Since the original publication of this post, we've received more statements about the latest lawsuit aimed at Colorado's marijuana laws. First, here's the take of Marijuana Policy Project communication director Mason Tvert:

"This is just another case of the Arrest and Prosecution Industry teaming up with marijuana prohibition groups to roll back the progress that has been made in Colorado.

"These guys are the 'Roy Moores' of marijuana, only they're trying to turn back the clock in a neighboring state instead of their own. Polls released in the past couple weeks have found a majority of Americans support making marijuana legal, and that the majority of Colorado voters who support it is even greater than when our law was passed in 2012.

"Marijuana is legal for adults in Colorado, regulation is working, and it's time for these folks to get over it.

"Voters and elected officials adopted these laws in order to make our communities safer. It's disappointing to see these officials, who are supposed to be maintaining public safety, try to undermine them.

"We cannot fathom why these guys would prefer marijuana cultivation and sales go back to being completely uncontrolled in Colorado. If they want to maintain a system of marijuana chaos in their states, that's their choice. But they shouldn't be trying to drag Colorado down with them."

And this is what Congressman Jared Polis has to say on the subject:

“This lawsuit is a silly attempt to circumvent the will of Colorado voters and is a waste of time. The United States Department of Justice and President Obama have made clear, on several occasions, that they will not interfere with states whose citizens have chosen to regulate marijuana for recreational purposes. Unfortunately, these frivolous lawsuits will likely continue until we pass my bipartisan Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act and finally end the outdated federal prohibition of marijuana.”

Read the entire complaint below.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

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