Did the White House Just Save Colorado's Marijuana from the Supreme Court?

Another Step Closer to Full Legalization


The White House is seeking to prevent a lawsuit geared toward stopping Colorado's marijuana legalization. In a brief filed last Wednesday, the Justice Department urged the Supreme Court to throw out the case brought on by neighboring Nebraska and Oklahoma, where possession can still be a felony.

Both states claim Colorado's legal marijuana is being smuggled across the borders at such a high amount it's "draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems."

While the Obama administration has refused to budge on marijuana's Schedule 1 status, its active engagement to end the lawsuit signals further acceptance for other states looking to legalize recreational use.

As Reason senior editor and drug-policy blogger Jacob Sullum points out in his latest interview with Reason TV, the states are where the first steps at correcting bad federal policy are taken.

"When they repealed alcohol prohibition, it was left up to the states what to do with alcohol," says Sullum. "And so you have most of the Republican presidential candidates saying the federal government should not interfere if the states want to legalize. That's really an amazing development."

And soon mores states are going to have similar reasons to start getting comfortable with cannabis:

In 2016, recreational marijuana reform may be on the ballot in nearly a dozen states and Sullum is optimistic. With support for recreational marijuana polling at a record-high 58 percent, it's only a question of how many states legalize in next year's elections.

To learn more on the future of marijuana legalization watch "Recreational Pot Will Be Legal Just About Everywhere Soon" above or read the original article here.

NEXT: Hillary Clinton Will Win the Democratic Nomination But Is an Awful Candidiate

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. If it’s putting a strain on your legal system… oh never mind.

  2. Both states claim Colorado’s legal marijuana is being smuggled across the borders at such a high amount it’s “draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems.”


    1. They’re actually worried that legalization will spread to their state and stop straining revenue into the pockets of certain people.

      1. Cannabis prohibition is in a death spiral. That cannot be stopped, only slowed down. They’re already talking legalization in some Latin American countries and Canada. Well, it’s already legal in Uruguay. It’s effectively over, just a matter of when, not if. I mean sure, it will still be illegal in Saudi Arabia and Iran, like anyone in the semi-free world would notice.

      2. I think the big worry is their peasants can go to Colorado to try pot, and will recognize that is doesn’t turn people into StonerSloths incapable of passing a salt shaker. Best PSA ever…

    2. “I can fix that for your states. STOP FUCKING WITH PEOPLE OVER A FUCKING PLANT, YOU MORONS!”

      Patient: “Doc, it really hurts when I twist my arm backwards.”
      Doc: “Well, don’t twist your arm backwards.”

      1. Patient: “Doc, it really hurts when you twist my arm backwards.”
        Doc: “I have to twist your arm backwards – its for your own good.”

        1. Patient: “I used to be able to twist my arm backwards *this* far, but now I can only twist it *this* far.”

          IOW — good thing MJ is “legal”, huh?

    3. You know, cocaine and heroin come from plants, too.

      1. And they should be legal.

      2. And I can buy poppyseed dressing whose only negative effect is to cause a person to test positive for opiates.

  3. In 2016, recreational marijuana reform may be on the ballot in nearly a dozen states

    I think, for recreational, this passes in Maine and Nevada, doesn’t pass in the others. Would be great if even one of the others passes it.

    Florida, lol. What would the cops do then? Busting up granny’s bingo game could get boring after a while.

    1. It will draw millions of otherwise apolitical voters to the polls, who will then vote for all kinds of free shit while they are there.

      1. The Museum of Petrified Jokes called, they want their stupid joke back.

        1. If the republican had two brain cells to rub together they’d legalize it via the legislative process and drive a stake through it as a GOTV issue.

    2. I’d be surprised if it passes in Nevada. They’re pretty big on getting people drunk so they can gamble foolishly, and wouldn’t want anything to interfere with that. Pot would make people paranoid of losing their money (although they might be intrigued by the bright pretty colors and sounds of the slot machines).

      1. While the Nevada Legislature was writing up the medicinal cannabis vendors regulations they made sure to include reciprocity out of State residents with medicinal cannabis rights in their home State. If you’re on the registry in another State you can buy medicinal cannabis from a State authorized medicinal cannabis vendor.

        Where the heck does this nonsense about the fans of cannabis being paranoid come from? It most certainly has no basis in fact. Do paranoid people often petition their government for redress of grievances? Do they often list themselves in a State maintained registry which could be used as evidence against them at some later date?

        1. Weed can cause panic attacks and paranoia in some people. Mostly people who don’t do it much and don’t like it. I’m sure there are already plenty of stoned people happily gambling away in Las Vegas.

          Nevada came pretty close to passing legalization in 2004, I think. I bet it passes next year.

  4. Hey, wait a minute… there’s no Trump in this story?

    1. But The Force will soon make an appearance.

  5. While the Obama administration has refused to budge on marijuana’s Schedule 1 status, its active engagement to end the lawsuit signals further acceptance for other states looking to legalize recreational use.

    From the linked article:
    “Entertaining the type of dispute here ? essentially that one state’s laws make it more likely that third parties will violate federal and state law in another state ? would represent a substantial and unwarranted expansion of this court’s original jurisdiction,” Verrilli said.

    Sounds to me like the executive branch simply wants to assert the authority of the executive branch on the issue.

    1. While the Obama Administration is sort of doing the right thing here, my guess is they’re partly doing it to avoid having marijuana prohibition further weakened by a Supreme Court case, and partly to avoid having to take any responsibility themselves. Nebraska and Oklahoma really don’t have any case at all, so the question would be whether the Supreme Court simply throws it out or does more damage to prohibition.

  6. By the way, this makes it more difficult for one state to sue another over guns. Suck it california.

    1. Actually the team politics in that case will dominate that case. Just like team blue MVP ignoring a bunch of team red states whining about weed from a team blue state.

  7. While the Obama administration has refused to budge on marijuana’s Schedule 1 status…

    This signals his commitment to this issue. Any other effort certainly has an ulterior motive, which will eventually be made obvious.

    1. Obama could care less. Problems like that are for the little people. Lifting his pen and phone in such an instance is just too far below him. It would be like you or I sitting around all day worrying about some piss ants outside.

    2. If he’s actually trying to help cannabis legalization (jury’s still out on that one) then the last thing he’d want to do is something as highly visible and attention drawing as re-scheduling it. That has to be one of the later steps, after many more states have legalized in one way or another.

      1. The issue has all the drug warriors’ attention already, along with massive public visibility. I don’t see what problem rescheduling it would cause, especially compared to the benefit of the remaining restrictive states losing most federal support for enforcing their idiotic MJ prohibition.

        1. But the “drug warrior coalition” is the frog in the pot of water and the president unilaterally rescheduling marijuana would be cranking up the heat.

      2. …the last thing he’d want to do is something as highly visible and attention drawing as re-scheduling it.

        Someone would have to convince me of this. Legalization at the state level is already a big deal in those states. Moving marijuana off of Schedule 1 would wipe out a basis for much of legal justification for the federal war on cannabis. States would truly be able to make their own decisions at that point.

        1. But that’s why it would be fought against very hard. So hard the prohibitionists would roll it back to Schedule 1 and make it much harder to get to complete national legalization. Unilaterally shifting it to some other Schedule might well be counterproductive.

  8. You can’t have it at the SC, because then they will have to refute Wickard vs. Filburn in order for Dear Leader not to lose face.

    1. The Supreme Court already spoke in Gonzales v. Raich, which was even worse than Wickard.

  9. Did the White House Just Save Colorado’s Marijuana from the Supreme Court?

    Almost forgot the obligatory: libertarian moment.

  10. This lawsuit is ridiculous on its face. By the logic of Nebraska, et al., once a state makes possession of something a felony, all its neighboring states have to do the same. It has no chance at SCOTUS. The administration didn’t save squat.

    1. They would have a case since commerce clause and federal drug laws.

      1. You might benefit from learning about the ant-commandeering doctrine. Regardless, Nebraska and Oklahoma haven’t got standing even if the Feds were entitled to force Colorado to change their laws. This issue is at a lot more basic level. The magic words are “prosecutorial discretion.” The Feds have that power.

    2. Are you saying they don’t like federalism? Let’s just do away with this state thing and have one big state ran by DC. Proggies approve. Europe did it and it’s fucking great!

      1. You’d think the progs would want to promote this doctrine. If Nebraska is allowed to sue Colorado over this, then New York can sue Pennsylvania and Vermont over their “lax” gun laws.

  11. OT: why is no one talking about the end of the oil export ban? It came at the expense of some green crap but it seems pretty important and worth it to me. The budget also ended onerous restrictions/taxes on foreign investment into real estate. It’s not as bad as it could have been.

    1. Some people are talking about it. Just not here. We only like to talk about Trump and weed.

      1. So if you read one article about it, the GOP got a pretty good deal out of it. If you read the next article, Nancy Pelosi is using the deal to sacrifice babies to Satan. With everyone putting their own spin on it, It’s pretty hard to tell with these omnibus bills who really won unless you want to sit down and read the bill yourself and figure out all the ways in which all of it could be interpreted, depending who is doing the interpreting.

        I’ve just come to the point that I assume every time they pass one of these massive clusterfucks, every day Americans are getting ass raped in some way or other.

    2. Meh. All it’s going to do is push WTI and Brent to parity faster. Then both will fall towards $25. But it’s not like OPEC can’t pump and deliver it as cheap outside our borders. Its just not a big deal in the larger supply/demand curve. But yes, good win for a freer market in a tiny case.

      1. It represented a massive subsidy for refineries at great cost for drillers, so I think it’s a pretty sweet victory for the good guys.

    3. It seems pretty stupid for us to start exporting when the price is low. Why don’t we leave it in the ground until prices are higher?

      1. There is no ‘we’. I think business can figure it out.

      2. Since the oil isn’t “ours” I assume the owners will make their on decisions to pump or not pump.

  12. Trying to keep a short story short the answer is no, Nebraska and Oklahoma don’t have standing to bring this action no matter what the Feds say about it.

  13. So, skimming the brief, the executive branch is skeptical about the claims of the plaintiff states, while acknowledging at least a bare possibility that they have some kind of case.

    But if they *do* have a case, the executive branch wants that case brought in U.S. District Court.

    Look, either the plaintiff states’ claims have merit or they don’t. Why send it down to a district court when the Supreme Court can use its original jurisdiction? Then the Supremes can have the honor of ruling in Colorado’s favor and thus shield Colorado from future suits of this kind.

    I know that the Supreme Court has awarded itself the power to avoid using its original jurisdiction. But that’s just laziness. Congress empowers the Supreme Court to pick and choose which cases it hears *on appeal,* but Congress didn’t, and can’t, authorize the Supreme Court to reject a suit among states just because it doesn’t want to be bothered. And the Supreme Court certainly can’t simply reject suits by states just because the justices don’t want to take the time to handle it.

    Just rule for Colorado already, definitively and decisively, and spare that state’s taxpayers any further litigation expenses.

    1. Original jurisdiction = go to the Supreme Court directly, rather than starting in a lower court and then asking the Supreme Court to hear the case.

      States can sue each other under the original jurisdiction, though they actually have to have a case. If they don’t the Supreme Court can say so and put the litigation out of its misery.

    2. I’d rather the Supreme Court reject hearing this outright rather than them actually taking the case. Of course this would be a much different rationale than Gonzales v. Raich and I could easily see the Court siding with Colorado, however I also see a bunch of nazgul looking pricks who were on the court and sided against Raich back in 05 (Kennedy, Scalia, Ginsburg, Breyer). And at least two of the three who sided with Raich and State’s Rights are gone (O’Connor and Rehnquist). I don’t trust Roberts not to pull some extra-constitutional legal basis out of his ass to keep the Drug War alive against pot out west. And the only two I trust to side with Colorado are Thomas and Sotomayor. So yeah I hope the Court does just deny hearing this and send those whiners in Nebraska and Oklahoma packing.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.