Here’s How the Supreme Court Ruled in Colorado’s Neighbors’ Pot Suit

March 21, 2016, 9:09 PM UTC
Colorado Experiments With Liberalization Of Marijuana Laws
Photograph by Chris Hondros—Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Monday threw out a lawsuit filed by the states of Nebraska and Oklahoma against their neighbor Colorado over a law approved as a ballot initiative by Colorado voters in 2012 that allows the recreational use of marijuana.

The court declined to hear the case filed by Nebraska and Oklahoma, which said that marijuana is being smuggled across their borders and noted that federal law still prohibits the drug.

Two conservative justices, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, said they would have heard the case.

Nebraska and Oklahoma contended that drugs such as marijuana threaten the health and safety of children and argued that Colorado had created “a dangerous gap” in the federal drug control system.

Colorado stands by its law. It noted that the Obama administration has indicated the federal government lacks the resources and inclination to enforce fully the federal marijuana ban.

Colorado also said that the Supreme Court was not the proper place to resolve the case. The lawsuit by Oklahoma and Nebraska was filed under the court’s rarely used “original jurisdiction,” which covers instances in which the justices hear disputes between states that are not first reviewed by lower courts.


Washington state also voted in 2012 to legalize recreational marijuana use by adults, while Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia followed in 2014.

Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority advocacy group favoring marijuana legalization, welcomed the court’s action.

“At the end of the day, if officials in Nebraska and Oklahoma are upset about how much time and resources their police are spending on marijuana cases, as they said in their briefs, they should join Colorado in replacing prohibition with legalization,” Angell said.

“That will allow their criminal justice systems to focus on real crime, and it will generate revenue that can be used to pay for healthcare, education and public safety programs,” Angell added.

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