DENVER -- The states of Oklahoma and Nebraska sued Colorado on Thursday, alleging that the Centennial State's legalization of recreational pot violates the U.S. Constitution.
"Colorado has created a system that legalizes, promotes and facilitates distribution of marijuana," Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said in a media release. "The illegal products of this system are heavily trafficked into neighboring states, causing an unnecessary burden on the state of Nebraska. Colorado has undermined the United States Constitution, and I hope the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold our constitutional principles."
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers quickly responded, saying Colorado will defend the law.
“Because neighboring states have expressed concern about Colorado-grown marijuana coming into their states, we are not entirely surprised by this action," Suthers said in a statement. "However, it appears the plaintiffs’ primary grievance stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado. We believe this suit is without merit and we will vigorously defend against it in the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Nebraska and Oklahoma filed the original action in the United States Supreme Court, contending that Colorado’s Amendment 64 and its implementing legislation are unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The Supremacy Clause holds that federal law supersedes all state law, and even state constitutions. Under a strict interpretation of the clause, some believe this means that no state can legalize marijuana unless the federal government does so.
Citing a USA Today survey that shows teen marijuana use declining since states began legalizing pot, Colorado's Marijuana Industry Group argued that "the data is overwhelmingly showing that Colorado has enhanced public safety, the economy, and the freedom of its citizens" through legalization.
"Despite 45 years of the federal war on marijuana, marijuana remains universally available, including in Nebraska and Oklahoma," spokesman Mike Elliot said. "If Nebraska and Oklahoma succeed (in this suit), they will put the violent criminal organizations back in charge."