Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Oklahoma legislators urging state's AG to drop SCOTUS suit again Colorado marijuana reforms

"Oklahoma Republicans Want To Snuff Out Their State's Lawsuit Over Colorado Marijuana" is the headline of this fascinating report from The Huffington Post (which Rebecca Pressman helpfully flagged in the comments to this post).  Here are excerpts from the HuffPo piece:

Several Oklahoma lawmakers are calling for state Attorney General Scott Pruitt to drop his lawsuit against Colorado over its legalization of recreational marijuana, arguing that it's the "wrong way to deal with the issue."

In a letter sent to Pruitt's office last week, seven Republican state lawmakers, led by state Rep. Mike Ritze, expressed their concern that the case could significantly undermine states' rights, including Oklahoma's....

The Oklahoma lawmakers fear that a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court against Colorado -- lawsuits between states go directly to the high court -- could sweep far more broadly than cannabis laws.  "If the federal government can force Colorado to criminalize marijuana," the letter reads, "using the exact same arguments, it could also force Oklahoma to criminalize a wide range of goods and activities that would be an anathema to the citizens of Oklahoma that we are sworn to serve."

The lawmakers argue that the best move would be for Pruitt's office to "quietly drop the action against Colorado, and if necessary, defend [Colorado's] right to set its own policies as we would hope other states would defend our right to govern ourselves."

Were the Supreme Court to rule against Colorado, Oklahoma lawmakers said they also have "deep concern" over the potential implications for the "national sovereignty of [the] entire country."  They note that the lawsuit points to United Nations drug conventions that ban marijuana to strengthen its case -- an argument that the Oklahoma lawmakers said equates U.N. treaties with federal laws. "If the argument in the lawsuit were successful, the federal government could, in theory, adopt any UN treaty, then force the states, including Oklahoma, to help impose it," the letter reads.

The state lawmakers said that many of their constituents have already asked them to file a brief in defense of Colorado if the court hears the case -- not because these Oklahomans want legal access to recreational marijuana, but because they fear their state's rights would be "put in jeopardy."...

“This is not about marijuana at its core -- it is about the U.S. Constitution, the Tenth Amendment, and the right of states to govern themselves as they see fit,” said Rep. Ritze in a statement about the letter.  "Our Founding Fathers intended the states to be laboratories of self-government, free to tinker and experiment with different ideas. The founders, from Jefferson to Madison, were also strong proponents of states nullifying unconstitutional federal actions.  If the people of Colorado want to end prohibition of marijuana, while I may personally disagree with the decision, constitutionally speaking, they are entitled to do so."

Joining Ritze in signing the letter were Oklahoma state Reps. Lewis Moore, John Bennett, Mike Christian, Dan Fisher and state Sens. Ralph Shortey and Nathan Dahm, all Republicans.

The full letter is available at this link, and it makes for quite an interesting read.

Prior related posts:

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/marijuana_law/2015/01/oklahoma-legislators-urging-states-ag-to-drop-scotus-suit-again-colorado-marijuana-reforms.html

Court Rulings, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink

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