Colorado Under The Microscope Again As Sheriffs, Prosecutors Sue State Over Marijuana Laws


Just months after Nebraska and Oklahoma filed lawsuits against Colorado over their marijuana laws, now comes word that sheriffs and prosecutors from across Colorado and neighboring states have filed a new lawsuit in Denver federal district court challenging the constitutionality of Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana use and sales.

According to an article in the Denver Post, the new lawsuit is similar to other lawsuits that have been filed against Colorado, which ask for the state to close all recreational marijuana stores. Medical marijuana stores would be able to remain open. The exception with the new lawsuit is that it also asks a federal judge to overturn Amendment 64’s protections for marijuana use and possession because, according to the suit, “federal law makes local officers duty bound to seize marijuana when they find it.”

The lawsuit states, “By not seizing or by returning marijuana they encounter, the Colorado Sheriffs further violate their duties of office because they are placing the residents of their County and other citizens who they serve and are duty-bound to protect into increased jeopardy by allowing controlled substances to remain in increased use and commerce.”

The lawsuit was filed by Boston attorney Paul Kelly, Reston Va. attorney Mark de Bernardo and Denver attorney Peter Munger. De Bernardo is the executive director of the anti-legalization Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace. The trio claim that officials from outside of Colorado “suffered and continue to suffer direct and significant harm.”

Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith was quoted as saying, “This suit is about one thing — the rule of law. The Colorado Constitution mandates that all elected officials, including sheriffs, swear an oath of office to uphold both the United States as well as the Colorado Constitutions. It mandates that the state government and its subdivisions actively support this activity through a regulatory process. As a sheriff, it obliges me to protect this newly established right.”

Smith also claimed that Amendment 64 “established a new right under the state constitution to engage in an activity that is in violation of federal laws.”

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper was named as the defendant in the lawsuit and Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman will be challenging it in court.

In December, Nebraska and Oklahoma asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the law. Two other lawsuits against the state over Amendment 64 were also filed earlier this year by anti-legalization group Safe Streets Alliance on behalf of Colorado residents.

Colorado officials have not responded to any of the pending lawsuits.

Marijuana activist Mason Tvert is one of the people that helped pass Amendment 64. He claims that if the lawsuits are successful in striking down the measures, it would lead to “a system of marijuana chaos.”


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Richard Lowe

Richard Lowe is a 14-year veteran of the financial sector with licenses as a commodity broker (Series 3) and investment advisor representative (IAR Series 65). Along with a focus on raising capital for the firms he was employed with, he also wrote and edited much of the content published by them. He holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts. He has been a longtime advocate for marijuana legalization due to the social injustices associated with marijuana prohibition and the strong potential for the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

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