Sheriffs From Multiple States Sue Colorado Over Marijuana Legalization
On Thursday, a group of sheriffs announced that Colorado is facing yet another suit over its experiment with marijuana legalization.
“Big Marijuana must be feeling the heat, and I’m sure they are lawyering up,” Kevin A. Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said in a statement.
This time, the suit’s been filed in federal court by a group of sheriffs in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. They want Colorado’s Amendment 64 to be struck down. Medical marijuana will be left untouched, but if the suit is successful, every single recreational shop in Colorado will have to close. Additionally, the sheriffs want protections for marijuana possession and use removed, distinguishing the suit from past attempts. The Colorado sheriffs claim that Amendment 64 has placed them in a precarious situation: In their day-to-day duties, they’re being forced to choose to violate either the Colorado Constitution or the Constitution of the United States.
Amendment 64 stands directly opposed to the Supremacy Clause in the United States Constitution, the sheriffs argue. Justin Smith, a sheriff from Larimer County in Colorado, wondered about the possibility that the crafters of Amendment 64 understood the legal contradiction but decided to mislead voters and forward it to the public, anyway.
Gov. John Hickenlooper is named as a defendant. Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has confirmed that she will battle the lawsuit.
“While a growing majority of Americans supports replacing failed prohibition policies with legalization, there will always be some people who desperately try to cling to what’s familiar,” Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The people of Colorado and other states have spoken, and now these prohibitionists who lost at the ballot box on Election Day are trying to overturn the will of the voters by making a last-ditch attempt in the courts. They are wrong about marijuana policy and they are on the wrong side of history.”
The action follows on the heels of an earlier lawsuit from neighboring states Nebraska and Oklahoma, and in both cases, the legal argument is almost exactly the same: the Supremacy Clause entails that the federal government has the right to regulate interstate commerce, so reserves the right to strike down any policy that contradicts federal drug policy. (RELATED: Nebraska And Oklahoma Join Forces To Strike Down Colorado’s Legal Marijuana)
Safe Streets, an organization in Washington, D.C., joined the fray in late February with a slightly different legal approach, namely by going after marijuana industry leaders under federal racketeering laws. These companies, according to Safe Streets, are the operational equivalent of a “commercial drug conspiracy.” (RELATED: Anti-Marijuana Group Wants Legalization Gone, Sues Colorado And Businesses)
“This is just another case of the Arrest and Prosecution industry teaming up with marijuana prohibition groups to roll back the progress that has been made in Colorado,” Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, told TheDCNF. “Marijuana is legal for adults in Colorado, regulation is working, and it’s time for these law enforcement officials need to get over it.”
“We cannot fathom why these guys would prefer marijuana cultivation and sales go back to being completely uncontrolled in Colorado. If they want to maintain a system of marijuana chaos in their states, that’s their choice. But they shouldn’t be trying to drag Colorado down with them.”
While Sabet argues that the current jail sentence for smoking a joint is too heavy-handed, he opposes the Big Marijuana becoming a new of Big Tobacco.
“This is now the latest in a series of lawsuits against legalization, and we support this action because Colorado’s decisions regarding marijuana are not without consequences to neighboring states, and indeed all Americans,” Sabet said. “The legalization of marijuana is not implemented in a vacuum. Dealers and traffickers are openly bragging about how they have been able to smuggle state-sanctioned marijuana out of Colorado.”
But pro-marijuana attorney Adam Scavone argues that these suits are not legally sound.
“It’s another baseless lawsuit, just like the one filed by Nebraska and Oklahoma, that fails Constitutional Law 101,” Scavone told TheDCNF. “Amazingly, the sheriffs and prosecutors recognize and admit in their brief that nothing in federal law requires — or could require — Colorado to march in lockstep with the federal government’s foolish, wasteful, and outdated marijuana policy.”
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