The United States Supreme Court has dismissed Nebraska & Oklahoma v Colorado, a landmark case that threatened to reverse Colorado’s marijuana legislation and undermine the nation’s efforts to legalize marijuana.
In the case, the states of Nebraska and Oklahoma argued that Colorado’s marijuana legalization in 2012 caused strain to their law enforcement resources through an increase in marijuana-related offenses. Because this was a dispute between states, Nebraska and Oklahoma were able to go straight to the Supreme Court through original jurisdiction, which allows the Supreme Court to see any case involving one state harming another.
Had the plaintiffs been heard by the court, Colorado’s Amendment 64 could have been threatened. It would set a similar precedent for other states that have also legalized cannabis.
Before Monday, The Obama Administration had urged the court to reject the case, as original jurisdiction is a rarely-used technique that is typically restricted to border disputes.
Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said to the court:
“Nebraska and Oklahoma essentially contend that Colorado’s authorization of licensed intrastate 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. But they do not allege that Colorado has directed or authorized any individual to transport marijuana into their territories in violation of their laws.”
On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, without comment. The ruling was opposed by Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.,
“There’s no question about it: This is good news for legalization supporters.” said Tom Angell, Chairman of Marijuana Majority,
“This case, if it went forward and the Court ruled the wrong way, had the potential to roll back many of the gains our movement has achieved to date. And the notion of the Supreme Court standing in the way could have cast a dark shadow on the marijuana ballot measures voters will consider this November. “
Nebraska and Oklahoma now have the option to pursue their case in lower courts.
“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.” said Angell.
“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.”