Nebraska & Oklahoma Take on Colorado Pot


Nebrahoma is suing Colorado, or for those who see the middle of the U.S. as more than a grasshopper-laden wasteland, that is Nebraska and Oklahoma. As neighbors to marijuana-friendly Colorado, the bordering sovereign states have taken issue with marijuana being trafficked from the Centennial State across their borders.

Sheriffs and attorneys general complain about law enforcement being inundated with people entering their states with marijuana, and how it turns simple traffic stops into ordeals that waste resources and taxpayer money. In Sidney, Nebraska, the Associated Press reported that 50 percent of traffic stops end with a marijuana arrest.

That figure of 50 percent is interesting, considering marijuana is decriminalized in Nebraska, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, and there needs to be an ounce of marijuana present for an arrest to occur; otherwise, a fine is issued. According to Colorado law, an out-of-stater would need to make four separate transactions to purchase that amount. Obviously that’s not impossible, but apparently lawbreakers like to stock up before hitting the road.

Now Nebraska and Oklahoma are looking for revenge on the Colorado taxpayer for dealing with these lawbreakers, and trying to enact it with the help of the U.S. Supreme Court. The attorneys general for Nebraska and Oklahoma have written up a lawsuit decrying what they characterize as Colorado’s disregard of Article IV, Section 2—the Supremacy clause—in the U.S. Constitution.

So the attorneys general of Nebraska and Oklahoma, Jon Bruning and Scott Pruitt, respectively, have taken this border dispute, as Mike Littwin described it in the Colorado Independent, and taken it to where Article III, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution said state v. state issues should go: the Supreme Court.

Bruning and Pruitt are about to ask the Supreme Court to censure Colorado and the federal government, for their actions dealing, cultivating and using recreational marijuana. That’s about all that could result of this lawsuit: a censure. There will be dissenting justices on this matter as well.

Looking at the arguments in the lawsuit, however, it should be noted they appear cogent on paper. This reporter is no legal expert, but the Constitution does give Congress the power to write the laws off the land. The law, called the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, is written to say marijuana is a Schedule I drug, and should be enforced as such by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Schedule I drugs, according to the law, have no medical value, are psychologically or physically addictive and are drugs of abuse; therefore, they may not even be studied.

Schedule II drugs have high potential for abuse, could be addictive, but have an acceptable use in medicine, like codeine. If marijuana got placed on Schedule II, that would be a downgrade in DEA drug schedule, but what would it mean in Colorado where anyone the age of 21 can just walk into a store and buy marijuana? Not much.

Of course, in January 2017, the Department of Justice could have a new executive directive given by a president who hates marijuana, but that seems unlikely. The lawsuit appears to be blatant anti-marijuana activism and an abuse of power, attempting to do a little grandstanding in the nation’s highest court to get their message across.

What Attorneys General Bruning of Nebraska and Pruitt of Oklahoma fail to see is that marijuana is the pit and the pendulum, and as public sentiment swings positive, the blade lowers cutting the belly off prohibition. Gruesome, but it’s true.

Email requests for comment from the attorneys general offices for Colorado, Nebraska and Oklahoma have yet to be returned.

Kansas, positioned between Nebraska and Oklahoma for non-geography majors, has taken no action against Colorado or the federal government yet, despite its own woes with Colorado marijuana.

“We are aware of the lawsuit but have not joined it at this time,” according to an email from Jennifer Rapp, the Public Information Officer and Deputy Director of the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit from the Kansas Attorney General’s office, “Colorado’s decision to ‘legalize’ marijuana and the federal government’s subsequent decision to limit enforcement of federal law in Colorado have combined to cause harm in Kansas, and we are assessing our options.”

Rapp has yet to respond regarding the nature of the options, or if the harms have extended beyond law enforcement being overworked by people who are breaking Colorado law by leaving the state with marijuana purchased in Colorado.

The attorneys general of Nebraska and Oklahoma are also asking Colorado to pay the legal fees in the event the Supreme Court rules in favor of Nebraska and Oklahoma. Understanding this is probably a common passage in most lawsuits, it still reads like a slap in the face in this situation.

According to an article on Mother Jones, Mason Tvert, Colorado-based marijuana activist, has suggested that there are other forces at play behind the lawsuit, alcohol-fueled forces. That is, Bruning has received tens-of-thousands of dollars in donations from the alcohol industry, Tvert said. In 2012, Bruning worked to lower alcohol taxes on “sweetened malt beverages,” for which the Mother Jones article gives hard lemonade as an example.

In essence, the work of Bruning and Pruitt is just calling attention to the problem of federal prohibition of marijuana. This decision, unless it actually forces the Justice Department to reverse a couple directives given regarding legalized marijuana, is just a waste of taxpayer money; and if the decision goes against Colorado, it’s a waste of Colorado taxpayer money. The message being sent by the attorneys general offices of Nebraska and Oklahoma is clear, but it’s the wrong one.

Matt Berg is a writer from Northwest Denver. Matt writes on a range of topics including science, music, motorcycles, politics, sports and more. He is always looking for adventure and his next story to tell. Connect with Matt on Twitter: @tomjoad187.

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