During December of last year, the states of Oklahoma and Nebraska took legal action at the Supreme Court level against Colorado. These states hope to reverse Amendment 64, the law passed by Colorado voters which legalizes marijuana for recreational use and retail sale.
Oklahoma and Nebraska hope that this lawsuit will nullify the 2012 voter initiative, citing that the increased supply of marijuana in Colorado is a “cross-border nuisance.” When Oklahoma and Nebraska filed suit, the states of Oregon and Washington submitted briefs that supported legalization of marijuana, particularly in Colorado.
When states file lawsuits against other states, like in this case, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has jurisdiction. However, SCOTUS rarely holds a trial to evaluate such a case. Instead, it delegates the task to a legal expert. This individual is responsible for researching the case. Once this person has gathered enough information, he or she makes a recommendation to SCOTUS about how to proceed.
The Supreme Court recently asked the Obama administration to give its opinion and reached out to the Justice Department in hopes of finding out its position on the litigation as well. While the Department of Justice will probably not respond for a few months, many are hopeful that SCOTUS will reiterate that marijuana legalization is an issue for the states to deal with, not the federal government.
Experts believe this lawsuit is expected to be dismissed for procedural reasons. It is doubtful that Nebraska and Oklahoma will be allowed to bypass the normal judicial process.
Sanford Levinson, a law professor at the University of Texas, explained:
“The real lawsuit shouldn’t be filed against Colorado. It ought to be Nebraska and Oklahoma v. Lynch, to force the attorney general to enforce federal law which undoubtedly is supreme over Colorado law.”
When the Supreme Court has evaluated marijuana cases in the past, it has not been promising for marijuana supporters. However, much has transpired since the important case of Gonzales v. Raich. As of right now, SCOTUS’s final ruling is hard to predict.