The White House is against legalizing marijuana, but the administration of Barack Obama is taking a stand in defense of states that have created legal markets in their own jurisdictions.
Nebraska and Oklahoma filed a suit against Colorado in the U.S. Supreme Court last year, arguing that Colorado's legal market was in a violation of federal prohibition laws and was making it easier to transport marijuana across state lines. The two neighboring states said that this is making it harder and more expensive for them to enforce their own laws prohibiting the sale and use of cannabis products.
In the brief filed to the nation's top court, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. writes that Nebraska and Oklahoma aren't alleging that Colorado "directly or indirectly" condoned the transportation of marijuana across state lines. Therefore, this case has no place before the court, which does have the authority to adjudicate legitimate legal disputes between states.
"Entertaining the type of dispute at issue here - essentially that one State's laws make it more likely that third parties will violate federal and state law in another State - would represent a substantial and unwarranted expansion of this Court's original jurisdiction," wrote Verrilli.
The solicitor general also wrote that, in any case, the Colorado law would have an inconsequential impact on law enforcement in Nebraska and Oklahoma because Colorado residents can only possess up to one ounce of marijuana at any given time.
Supreme Court must respect states' rights
Jolene Forman, staff attorney for the Drug Policy Alliance, praised the Obama administration for defending states' rights in this case.
"We are pleased the DOJ (Department of Justice) agrees that this lawsuit borders on the frivolous," Forman said in a press release. "States have historically been allowed to establish their own criminal laws."
Even though the Obama administration has taken this stand in support of Colorado, it still remains one step behind Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic candidate to succeed Obama in 2017. Sanders' bill before the U.S. Senate calls for the end to the federal prohibition, while still respecting the rights of individual states to decide this issue on their own.