The controversial lawsuit filed against Colorado by Oklahoma and Nebraska over the state’s pot laws has taken a turn that could leave the legal action up in smoke. The Huffington Post’s Matt Ferner reports that several Oklahoma lawmakers are calling for state Attorney General Scott Pruitt to drop the lawsuit, claiming that it’s the “wrong way to deal with the issue.”
A letter was sent to Pruitt’s office last week by seven Republican state lawmakers. The letter expressed concern that the case could “undermine states’ rights, including Oklahoma’s.” The lawsuit, titled States of Nebraska and Oklahoma v. State of Colorado, was filed in December by Pruitt and Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning. They claimed that “newly legal marijuana from neighbor Colorado is being illegally trafficked across their borders.” The lawsuit seeks to “protect the health and safety of their states’ residents” and under the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause, Colorado’s decision to legalize and regulate the sale of recreational marijuana cannot stand as long as cannabis is illegal under federal law.
But the Oklahoma lawmakers are concerned that a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court against Colorado — lawsuits between states go directly to the high court — could have a bigger impact than just on cannabis laws. The letter read, “If the federal government can force Colorado to criminalize marijuana, using the exact same arguments, it could also force Oklahoma to criminalize a wide range of goods and activities that would be an anathema to the citizens of Oklahoma that we are sworn to serve.” The lawmakers feel the best thing to do would be for Pruitt’s office to “quietly drop the action against Colorado, and if necessary, defend [Colorado’s] right to set its own policies as we would hope other states would defend our right to govern ourselves.”
The lawmakers also expressed concern over the idea that if the Supreme Court were to rule against Colorado, there could be implications for the “national sovereignty of [the] entire country.” They explained that the lawsuit points to United Nations drug conventions that ban marijuana to strengthen its case — an argument that the Oklahoma lawmakers said equates U.N. treaties with federal laws. The letter read, “If the argument in the lawsuit were successful, the federal government could, in theory, adopt any UN treaty, then force the states, including Oklahoma, to help impose it.”
Pruitt’s office did not immediately comment on the letter.
Recreational marijuana is now legal under Colorado and Washington state laws, and soon in Oregon and Alaska, but it is still illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. The states that have legalized marijuana or loosened penalties for its possession have relied on the Justice Department asking federal prosecutors to not go after state-legal marijuana operations.