A big year for cannabis

There have been major stories regarding cannabis over the last 15 months. On August 29, 2013, the Department of Justice announced, “Based on assurances that those states [that have legalized cannabis] will impose an appropriately strict regulatory system, the Department has informed the governors of both states that it is deferring its right to challenge their legalization laws at this time.” Further, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole sent a memo to all United States Attorneys explaining the DOJ’s stance.

In January of this year, people in Colorado were allowed to legally purchase recreational cannabis for the first time in nearly a century. And earlier this month the Washington Post reported, the Justice Department said “it will no longer prosecute federal laws regulating the growing or selling of marijuana on reservations, even when state law bans the drug.” Some tribal governments asked the Department of Justice if it would back tribal pot bans in states where recreational use is legal — currently Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Alaska, which prompted the policy announcement.

Just a few days after the announcement that the feds were, ever so slightly, further rolling back the war on cannabis, the Attorneys General of Oklahoma and Nebraska asked the US Supreme Court to strike down Colorado’s legalization of cannabis. The lawsuit alleges, “Marijuana flows from this gap into neighboring states, undermining Plaintiff States’ own marijuana bans, draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems.”

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said in a statement that he will defend the state’s legalization of cannabis, saying that the lawsuit is, “without merit.” Adding, “Because neighboring states have expressed concern about Colorado-grown marijuana coming into their states, we are not entirely surprised by this action. 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.”

It seems that the lawsuit by Oklahoma and Nebraska should instead be against the federal government, not Colorado. It is also interesting that no state has ever sued another state or foreign government because illegal substances crossed a border. Further, what is actually draining the treasuries, and placing stress on the criminal justice systems of Oklahoma and Nebraska are the laws that have criminalized the manufacture, sale, use and possession of a plant. Maybe the legislators of Oklahoma and Nebraska, as well as the other 44 states that have prohibitions on cannabis will take a cue from Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Alaska and move to reduce the drug war that is so stressful and costly.