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Nebraska, Oklahoma AGs Want to Proceed With Pot Lawsuit Against Colorado

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Despite strong disapproval from the Obama Administration, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson both say they will continue to push the U.S. Supreme Court to allow their states to sue Colorado for legalizing cannabis.

In a brief written by U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the federal government recently suggested that the Supreme Court reject the lawsuit, saying that Colorado's pot laws don't directly violate federal or state laws in other states. That hasn't stopped Pruitt from moving forward, however. The Oklahoma Attorney General plans to file written arguments next month, according to the Oklahoman.

"The Obama administration has allowed this to happen by not enforcing federal drug law and the U.S. Supreme Court should not take seriously its arguments about procedural matters until the administration answers why it refuses to enforce federal law." Pruitt told the newspaper.

And Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson told Netnebraska.org that he, too, plans to write a brief opposing the federal government's recommendation and move forward with the lawsuit.

"The federal government, specifically the Department of Justice, has been providing mixed messages on the enactment of drug laws in our nation," Peterson said.

Last December, Pruitt and then-Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning asked the Supreme Court for permission to file a lawsuit against Colorado that took aim at Amendment 64, the 2012 law that made recreational cannabis legal within Colorado borders. Claiming that Colorado's legalization of retail marijuana cultivation and possession had increased drug diversion into their states, causing more crime in local communities and stress on law enforcement, Prutit and Bruning asked that the Supreme Court strike down Amendment 64.

"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," the lawsuit reads.

The Oklahoman reported that the Supreme Court asked for the Obama Administration's opinion on the matter in May. The response, released last week, said the Court would be inappropriately expanding its powers in unprecedented fashion if it heard the matter and quashed Amendment 64.

"Nebraska and Oklahoma essentially contend that Colorado’s authorization of licensed intra-state 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," the administration's response reads. "But they do not allege that Colorado has directed or authorized any individual to transport marijuana into their territories in violation of their laws. Nor would any such allegation be plausible. Nebraska and Oklahoma have therefore not sufficiently alleged that Colorado has inflicted the sort of direct injury to their sovereign interests warranting an exercise of original jurisdiction.

"At most, they have alleged that third-party lawbreakers are inflicting those injuries, and that Colorado’s legal regime makes it easier for them to do so. But that is a far less direct connection between state action and the alleged injury than even the connections that this Court found insufficient in cases involving two previous state disputes, Louisiana v. Texas (from 1900) and Pennsylvania v. New Jersey (from 1976)."

There's no deadline for the Supreme Court to decide on whether to hear the lawsuit, but replies from the plaintiffs are needed to start the review process. Read below for Nebraska and Oklahoma's original lawsuit and the federal brief asking to reject it.

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