U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr.’s opinion on why the U.S. Supreme Court should deny a complaint against Colorado’s marijuana laws brought by neighboring states is straightforward and sensible.
Verrilli points out that the nation’s highest court rarely intercedes in state disputes, reserving jurisdiction to cases with clear damages, such as when pollution from one state causes harm to people or property in another state, or when a state’s actions can be demonstrated to be causing economic harm in another.
But the allegations brought by Nebraska and Oklahoma that Colorado’s marijuana laws are creating a dangerous gap in the federal drug control system is a stretch, Verrilli points out in his brief to the court released on Wednesday.
Nebraska and Oklahoma’s suit is framed around the fact that marijuana is still a drug banned by federal authorities.
The suit, which seeks to prod federal officials into cracking down on Colorado’s system of retail marijuana, maintains that Colorado allows pot to flow into neighboring states, undermining their “marijuana bans, draining their treasuries and placing stress on their criminal justice systems.”
These claims amount to outlandish hyperbole, but Verrilli cites an even bigger problem with them. As he points out, Colorado is not responsible for the actions of third parties who may choose to break the laws of Nebraska and Oklahoma where pot is still illegal.
“They do not allege that Colorado has directed or authorized any individual to transport marijuana into their territories in violation of their laws. Nor would any such allegation be plausible,” he writes.
Fortunately, this legal opinion of the government’s top lawyer reinforces the Obama administration’s reasonable stance on pot legalization — that as long as certain safeguards are in place, the feds will stand back and let the experiment play out.
We hope the Supreme Court accepts Verrilli’s opinion and chooses not to hear this case.