Update: A number of Republican officials from Oklahoma have publicly questioned the state attorney general's decision to file a lawsuit over Colorado's legalization of pot. In a letter to AG Scott Pruitt co-signed by six other Republican lawmakers, Representative Mike Ritze called preservation of states' rights a core conservative value. ""Our Founding Fathers intended the states to be laboratories of self-government, free to tinker and experiment with different ideas," Ritze said in a release about the letter. "The founders, from Jefferson to Madison, were also strong proponents of states nullifying unconstitutional federal actions. If the people of Colorado want to end prohibition of marijuana, while I may personally disagree with the decision, constitutionally speaking, they are entitled to do so."
For months, Nebraska law enforcers and officials have been up in arms about Colorado's marijuana laws. Now, the state is attempting to take its complaints to the U.S. Supreme Court: Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning is suing the State of Colorado, with Oklahoma jumping aboard. Continue to see the complete complaint, as well as photos, video and details.
This move doesn't come from out of the blue. Back in April, we reported about Nebraska cops asking for Colorado to help pay for marijuana enforcement over the border. At the time, Duell County Sheriff Adam Hayward was quoted as saying, "I don't know what it will take to get someone to stand up and do something to try to get some of our money back,"
The following month, Nebraska state senator Ken Schilz floated the idea of increasing penalties for marijuana in the hope that potentially draconian punishment might stem the suspected tide of Colorado pot thought to be flowing into Nebraska.
And predictably, Nebraska cops freaked out about the prospect of pot edibles from Colorado ending up in the Halloween buckets of Nebraska trick-or-treaters. Police officers here had similar fears, but no reported incidents took place.
Marijuana Deals Near You
Nonetheless, Nebraska Attorney General Bruning and his Oklahoma counterpart, Scott Pruitt, remain upset about the decision by Colorado voters to approve Amendment 64, the 2012 measure that legalized limited marijuana sales for recreational purposes in the state, and they want the U.S. Supreme Court to set things right. An excerpt from the complaint shared here maintains that "Amendment 64 and its resultant statutes and regulations are devoid of safeguards to ensure marijuana cultivated and sold in Colorado is not trafficked to other states, including Plaintiff States," adding that "in passing and enforcing Amendment 64, the State of Colorado has created a dangerous gap in the federal drug control system enacted by the United States Congress. Marijuana flows from this gap into neighboring states, undermining Plaintiff States' own marijuana bans, draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems."
By the way, Bruning is about to complete his time in office, but Doug Peterson, his successor as Nebraska AG, is reportedly a lawsuit backer, too. For his part, Oklahoma's Pruitt has issued the following statement:
Fundamentally, Oklahoma and states surrounding Colorado are being impacted by Colorado's decision to legalize and promote the commercialization of marijuana which has injured Oklahoma's ability to enforce our state's policies against marijuana. Federal law classifies marijuana as an illegal drug. The health and safety risks posed by marijuana, especially to children and teens, are well documented. 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.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers is on his way out, too: He's currently running for mayor of Colorado Springs -- and he's no fan of marijuana legalization. However, he issued a statement making it clear that his office will fight the efforts of Nebraska and Oklahoma to intervene in Colorado politics. He writes: "Because neighboring states have expressed concern about Colorado-grown marijuana coming into their states, we are not entirely surprised by this action. However, 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."
Equally dismissive of the move is Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project and one of Amendment 64's most prominent proponents. Here's his statement:
"We agree with the Colorado Attorney General's opinion that this suit is without merit. This is a classic case of a solution in search of a problem. They are wasting Nebraska and Oklahoma taxpayers' dollars by filing this suit, and they're forcing Coloradans to pick up the bill for defending ourselves against it. Colorado's top law enforcement officials have better things to do, and you'd think their counterparts in Nebraska and Oklahoma would as well.
"These guys are on the wrong side of history. They will be remembered similarly to how we think of state officials who fought to maintain alcohol prohibition years after other states ended it.
"Attorney General Bruning is demonizing the adult use of marijuana, but clearly has no problem with adults using a far more harmful substance like alcohol. He has accepted tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions from the alcohol industry, and it appears he is fighting to protect their turf. He should explain why he thinks Colorado adults should not be able to use marijuana instead, if that's what they prefer. He might be happy living in an alcohol-only state, but here in Colorado we believe adults should be able to make the safer choice."
As for the prospects of the complaint, it likely faces an uphill battle, although there's no predicting how Supreme Court's conservative majority will respond. The court's right wing traditionally favors state's rights, which bodes well for Colorado -- but the justices have also been known to twist ideology in order to achieve wanted political ends.
Look below to see a 7News report on the lawsuit, followed by the complete document.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.