Although the Obama Administration advised the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 not to waste any time entertaining a lawsuit brought forth by Oklahoma and Nebraska that suggests Colorado’s legal marijuana market is causing “irreparable injury” due to an influx of drug trafficking into their communities, the nation’s highest court will discuss on Friday whether to pick up the case—creating the potential for the legal cannabis industry to be shutdown.
According to the U.S. Supreme Court docket, the case of Nebraska and Oklahoma Vs. Colorado is scheduled for conference on March 4.
In an analysis provided by Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority, if four justices decide to hear the controversial lawsuit, which suggests the two states “are suffering a direct and significant detrimental impact” as a result of the retail pot market in Colorado, the Court’s final verdict could have “devastating implications for marijuana legalization.”
The plaintiffs are asking the Supreme Court to hit the kill switch on Colorado’s cannabis industry because Amendment 64 conflicts with the Controlled Substances Act while violating the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. They are arguing that legalization has “created a dangerous gap in the federal drug control system” that is leading to marijuana being smuggled into neighboring states.
The complaint suggests that by allowing Colorado to engage in the “experiment” of legal weed, the federal government is creating a burdensome environment for both law enforcement and the citizens of Oklahoma and Nebraska that is taxing the state’s’ collective resources.
However, last year, the gatekeeper to the Supreme Court, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., filed a briefing intended to persuade the justices against hearing the lawsuit. He argued that the case should be rejected because the dispute is not “an appropriate case for the exercise of this Court’s original jurisdiction.” At its core, the briefing advised the court to dismiss the case, since the criminal actions outlined in the complaint are being committed by individuals and not by the State of Colorado.
It is not known at this point just how many of the justices will side with the Solicitor General’s briefing and vote against a review. The recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia may have cost the Plaintiffs a solid vote.
“While it is not known for certain how Scalia would have voted on granting review,” Angell wrote, “or how he would have ultimately come down on the issues at play in the case if the Court did hear it, a look at his record indicates he probably wasn’t a fan of the fact that local businesses in Colorado are selling marijuana in defiance of federal law.”
If the lawsuit does receive the support of four justices on Friday, it could be years before the Court delivers of verdict. Unfortunately, if after the smoke clears, and the ruling finds the plaintiffs are justified in their complaint, Angell says that “marijuana production and sales could be struck down,” hindering the concept of a tax and regulated pot market.
Yet, he goes on to explain that the ruling would not apply to personal cultivation and possession. Basically, weed would still be legal, but all of the commercial producers and dispensaries that make up the billion-dollar industry would be forced to suspend operations.
As for now, it is anyone’s guess how the U.S. Supreme Court will proceed. There is speculation that the case may have already been discussed to some degree in a couple of previous conferences. Natural Revolution will keep you updated on the situation as new developments arise.