Nebraska, Oklahoma sue Colorado over legalized marijuana

Nebraska and Oklahoma filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court today aiming to strike down parts of Colorado’s legalization of marijuana.

The two states say in the suit that it is difficult for them to enforce a federal ban on marijuana with the drug entering their borders from neighboring Colorado.

“Marijuana flows from this gap into neighboring states … draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems,” the suit says.

The suit criticizes Colorado’s law for neither requiring background checks for buyers, nor mandating that they consume marijuana where they purchase it. These characteristics of the law increase the chances that people will buy and transport the drug across state lines, it says.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said that Colorado profits from marijuana sales while Nebraska pays the price, according to the Omaha World-Herald. “While Colorado reaps millions from the production and sale of pot, Nebraska taxpayers have to bear the cost,” he said.

This marks the highest court challenge yet to marijuana legalization, which passed in Colorado by referendum in 2012. Recreational marijuana for people over 21 became available in Colorado at the start of this year. The business has generated over $300 million in 2014 so far, according to the Denver Post.

The suit targets commercial aspects of the law and does not single out the part of the law that legalized individual possession. But marijuana advocacy groups say that striking down those parts of the law could give criminal organizations greater control over the industry.

Keith Stroup, legal counsel to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, called the suit “more political theater than a serious legal challenge.”

Currently, marijuana is fully legal in Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Colorado and decriminalized in 14 other states. Medical marijuana is legally available in 23 states but remains illegal under federal law.