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Supreme Court Denies Oklahoma’s Request To Sue Colorado Over Pot Laws

Brett Levin
Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Monday morning the U.S. Supreme Court denied Oklahoma and Nebraska’s request to sue Colorado over its legalization and regulation of marijuana.

Oklahoma and Nebraska each share a border with Colorado, and argued the Centennial State’s production and distribution of the drug causes problems in their states. Colorado legalized marijuana in 2012, and the states started the legal process in 2014.

Under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, states can bring legal action against each other only with the approval of the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Samuel Alito, wrote the dissent.

Read Justice Clarence Thomas’ Dissent

“If this Court does not exercise jurisdiction over a controversy between two States, then the complaining State has no judicial forum in which to seek relief,” Thomas wrote.

Thomas said the marijuana case could serve as an opportunity for the high court to reevaluate how it approaches disputes between the states.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and his counterpart in Nebraska say Colorado’s pot laws violate the federal Controlled Substances Act, and have led to an increase in illegal drugs crossing into neighboring states. Early last year Utah, which also shares a border with Colorado, said it wasn’t interested in joining the lawsuit.

Last year, solicito general Donald Verrilli wrote in a brief that interstate conflicts are limited to "direct injury" claims - say, if Colorado actually told traffickers to take marijuana into Oklahoma. He said neither state made that claim, and the allegation wouldn't even be plausible.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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