It seems that not every politician in Oklahoma wants to go along with the recent lawsuit against Colorado for legalizing recreational marijuana. On December 31, seven lawmakers sent a 3 page letter to Oklahoma Attorney General, Scott Pruitt, asking him to drop the lawsuit against Colorado.
“This is not about the legalization of marijuana,” said Mike Ritze, the state representative in Oklahoma’s 80th District who authored the letter. “It’s about states’ rights.”
The lawsuit being lead by Oklahoma, with Nebraska as a co-plaintiff, states that “the State of Colorado has created a dangerous gap in the federal drug control system… 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 was filed with U.S. Supreme Court in the middle of December last year, but the Court has yet to respond. It might be years before they even accept or reject the motion.
“We’re searching for a non-problem. I’m looking at data, and it’s not there.”
Ritze is not just some random state representative. He serves as chair of the Oklahoma House Public Health Committee and is a state-certified surgeon and physician. Co-signers include Oklahoma state representatives Lewis Moore, John Bennett, Mike Christian and Dan Fisher as well as state senators Ralph Shortey and Nathan Dahm.
To be clear, the lawmakers who signed the letter to the Attorney General are not voicing their support for marijuana legalization in Colorado, but they are voicing their disapproval of the lawsuit. The letter states that the lawsuit is the wrong way to go about solving the problem. A lawsuit like this presents potential issues for states’ rights, the Tenth Amendment, and the ability of states and it’s citizens to govern as they see fit.
Attorney General Pruitt responded to the letter by saying that the lawsuit only challenges a ‘portion’ of Amendment 64, and he would take the lawsuit off the table the moment he felt states’ rights were at risk.
“The representative is right to be concerned about any effort by a state to challenge the authority of another state to legalize marijuana within its own borders,” Pruitt told The Cannabist via email. “I appreciate his concern, and I agree with him. However, Oklahoma’s lawsuit does not challenge in any manner or form Colorado’s legalization of marijuana for use and possession for intrastate purposes.”
Pruitt continued, “Rather, we are challenging only that portion of Colorado’s law that does invoke our states’ rights: the interstate trafficking of an illegal drug under Oklahoma law. We will continue to work with the representative and others to ensure this critical distinction is communicated so as to hopefully address any confusion over the lawsuit’s objectives.”
The impromptu lawsuit came as a surprise to many, and as a result, many are now questioning it’s true motives. Ritze notes a lack of a basic dialogue between states and statistical analysis of the impact of the marijuana ‘flowing into state.’
“The first thing we should do: Sit down and talk,” said Ritze. “Do we really have a problem? We polled our state narcotics bureau and the highway patrol and the people in narcotics interdiction, and none of them said the Attorney General had asked them about (the issue). We’re searching for a non-problem. I’m looking at data, and it’s not there.”
To back up Ritze’s claims, examining the lawsuit reveals a massive lack of statistical methodology or hard data backing up the allegations that Colorado’s legal marijuana is ‘draining their treasuries.’
“We’re opposed to the legalization of marijuana, and we think Colorado made a bad decision in legalizing it,” Ritze clarified. “But after reading the lawsuit, there were three or four areas that we had deep concerns about, including telling another state what to do when it’s really none of our business.”
Photo Credit: KOTV