Mikayla Hellwich


Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request to hear a lawsuit Nebraska and Oklahoma brought against Colorado’s marijuana legalization law, a rare case falling under the Court’s original jurisdiction to hear lawsuits between states. In 2012, Colorado voted to legalize marijuana production, sales, and consumption for adults, but Attorneys General in the two neighboring states claimed the law is causing marijuana to spill into their states, creating a law enforcement burden, and that the law is a violation of the Controlled Substances Act. Colorado argued that their law is designed to minimize the illicit market and associated dangers. They also argued that the case is more appropriate for a lower court and that overturning their marijuana law won’t solve the problem outlined by the plaintiffs. SCOTUS didn’t explain the reason for refusing to hear the suit but recommended submitting the case to a federal trial court instead.

“If Nebraska and Oklahoma had the good sense to legalize and regulate marijuana too, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. What a monumental waste of time to ask our highest court to solve a problem that could be fixed with a well-written piece of legislation or a ballot initiative,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a criminal justice group working to end the War on Drugs.

SCOTUS typically decides on appeals from lower courts, but they occasionally take on disputes between states in “original jurisdiction” suits. These types of suits occur infrequently and generally deal with disagreements over the use of resources, such as rivers, that flow through more than one state. In December 2015, the U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli extended his recommendation to reject hearing the case, which he said would, “…represent a substantial and unwarranted expansion of this court’s original jurisdiction.”

Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and the District of Columbia have all legalized marijuana for adult use. 23 states and D.C. have legalized some form of access to medical marijuana. In August 2013, the Department of Justice released a memorandumindicating they would no longer interfere in states that choose to regulate marijuana as long as common sense measures are taken to prevent organized crime within the legal businesses and prevent youth access to marijuana, among other reasonable goals.

LEAP is committed to ending decades of failed marijuana policies that have engendered gang violence, fostered corruption and racism, clogged the justice system at every step of the process, and diverted significant resources away from addressing more important crimes.