U.S.: Nebraska, Oklahoma AGs File Lawsuit To Overturn Colorado Marijuana Legalization


Colorado Attorney General says ‘suit is without merit and [his office] will vigorously defend against it’

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning on Thursday announced that he has filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of overturning Colorado’s laws that legalize, regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol. He said Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is also joining the lawsuit, which alleges the state constitutional amendment approved by Colorado voters and the implementing legislation approved by state lawmakers is unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“We agree with the Colorado Attorney General’s opinion that this suit is without merit," said Mason Tvert, the Denver-based communications director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) who co-directed the 2012 Colorado marijuana initiative campaign. "This is a classic case of a solution in search of a problem."

"They are wasting Nebraska and Oklahoma taxpayers’ dollars by filing this suit, and they’re forcing Coloradans to pick up the bill for defending ourselves against it," Tvert ssaid. "Colorado's top law enforcement officials have better things to do, and you’d think their counterparts in Nebraska and Oklahoma would as well.

“These guys are on the wrong side of history," Tvert said. "They will be remembered similarly to how we think of state officials who fought to maintain alcohol prohibition years after other states ended it.

“This is a misguided effort to undo cautious and effective state-level regulation of marijuana and to undermine the will of the voters and legislators who enacted it. Today’s action isn’t just a challenge to Colorado but to the ability and authority of all states to regulate and control marijuana within their borders as they see fit. It implicates the four states that have adopted ballot initiatives by decisive margins to tax and regulate marijuana for adults as well as the 34 states that have adopted laws to regulate medical marijuana.

“The Federal government itself has not challenged the regulatory law in Colorado nor did they choose to interfere with its implementation," said Tamar Todd, director, Marijuana Law and Policy, Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "To the contrary, the government has deprioritized enforcement of state-level marijuana reforms and acknowledged the interests that both states and the Federal government have in openly regulating marijuana.

"And just this past week, a historic vote in Congress barred the use of federal resources from interfering with state medical marijuana programs," Todd said. "Today's action is nothing more than an effort to cling to the failed policies of the war on drugs and interfere with a new common sense, less harmful approach to marijuana.”

“Attorney General Bruning is demonizing the adult use of marijuana, but clearly has no problem with adults using a far more harmful substance like alcohol," the MPP's Tvert pointed out. "He has accepted tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions from the alcohol industry, and it appears he is fighting to protect their turf.

"He should explain why he thinks Colorado adults should not be able to use marijuana instead, if that’s what they prefer," Tvert said. "He might be happy living in an alcohol-only state, but here in Colorado we believe adults should be able to make the safer choice.”

In 2012, Bruning took campaign donations from the beer industry while advocating for lower tax rates on their products. He has a history of accepting campaign donations from certain industries while showing them favorable treatment, according to the Nebraska Democratic Party.

Between 2001 and 2010 Bruning received at least $39,785 in campaign donations from the alcohol industry while he actively pushed for sweetened malt beverages, known as "Alco-pops," to be taxed as beer rather than hard liquor. "Alco-pops," like Mike's Hard Lemonade and Smirnoff Ice, are frequently marketed to children.

Photo of Attorney General Jon Bruning: Journal Star