Supreme Court Refuses to Consider States’ Lawsuit Against Recreational Cannabis

Supreme Court Refuses to Consider States' Lawsuit Against Recreational Cannabis - Weed Finder™ NewsThe U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to consider a lawsuit from Nebraska and Oklahoma against Colorado’s regulated sales of marijuana for recreational use, removing a major threat to the multibillion-dollar state-legal cannabis industry.

Possession of marijuana for any reason outside limited research remains a federal crime, and marijuana reform advocates feared an unfavorable ruling would take a wrecking ball to laws in four states that allow recreational pot sales and medical marijuana laws in many others.

Colorado’s neighbors argued the 2014 opening of recreational marijuana stores selling small amounts to anyone 21 and older caused an increase in cross-border criminality, and that Colorado’s regulation of pot stores was illegal under federal law.

The Obama administration has allowed states broad leeway to regulate marijuana sales, even though federal prohibition remains intact, and urged the court in December to dismiss the states’ lawsuit. A future administration likely could end executive branch permissiveness.

The six-justice majority that refused to hear the case did not explain themselves, but two of the court’s more conservative justices said the case should have been allowed to continue. If it had, the Supreme Court – which has original jurisdiction over disputes among states – would have appointed a special master to develop recommendations, which the full court would then consider.

“Whatever the merit of the plaintiff States’ claims, we should let this complaint proceed further rather than denying leave without so much as a word of explanation,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a dissent joined by Justice Samuel Alito.

Marijuana reform advocates rejoiced in the defeat of an existential threat.

“There’s no question about it: This is good news for legalization supporters,” says Tom Angell, chairman of the group Marijuana Majority. “This case, if it went forward and the court ruled the wrong way, had the potential to roll back many of the gains … and the notion of the Supreme Court standing in the way could have cast a dark shadow on the marijuana ballot measures voters will consider this November.”

Don Duncan, California director of Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group, says the decision continues “a long history of courts giving states latitude” over marijuana policy.

Duncan says the decision is further proof that courts will not overturn state-level marijuana reform laws.

The Supreme Court previously passed over an opportunity to kill state medical marijuana laws in its 2005 Gonzales v. Raich decision, which upheld the ability of Congress to make marijuana possession a federal crime, even in states that allow its use. And though an opinion was not issued, the court’s non-action in 2014 forced Arizona police to return medical marijuana to a California resident.

Though the Nebraska and Oklahoma lawsuit did not challenge medical marijuana laws, which allow for regulated cannabis markets in 23 states and the nation’s capital, those laws likely would have been affected had the Supreme Court struck down Colorado’s recreational marijuana law, Duncan says.

“The same principle applies,” he says. “It was a potentially disastrous case for patients if it went the wrong way.”



(Supreme Court Refuses to Consider States’ Lawsuit Against Recreational Cannabis – Weed Finder™ News  |  Article Credit: U.S. News & World Report’s, Steven Nelson