A third lawsuit has been filed against Colorado with the aim of overturning marijuana legalization. This third lawsuit has been filed by Sheriffs in Colorado, Nebraska, and Kansas. Per USA Today:
Sheriffs from Colorado and neighboring states Kansas and Nebraska say in a lawsuit to be filed Thursday that Colorado’s marijuana law creates a “crisis of conscience” by pitting the state law against the Constitution and puts an economic burden on other states.
The lawsuit asks a federal court in Denver to strike down Colorado’s Amendment 64 that legalized the sale of recreational marijuana and to close the state’s more than 330 licensed marijuana stores.
Lead plaintiff, Larimer County, Colo., Sheriff Justin Smith, calls the case a “constitutional showdown.” Each day, he says, he must decide whether to violate the Colorado Constitution or the U.S. Constitution. Colorado legalized recreational marijuana sales Jan. 1, 2014, but marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.
The lawsuit brought swift reaction from the marijuana activism community. The head of Marijuana Majority, Tom Angell, had the following to say:
While a growing majority of Americans supports replacing failed prohibition policies with legalization, there will always be some people who desperately try to cling to what’s familiar. The people of Colorado and other states have spoken, and now these prohibitionists who lost at the ballot box on Election Day are trying to overturn the will of the voters by making a last-ditch attempt in the courts. They are wrong about marijuana policy and they are on the wrong side of history.
And from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition:
Today sheriffs from Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas filed a lawsuit against Colorado’s marijuana legalization law, Amendment 64. The officers claim the law is unconstitutional, and that there is increased burden on law enforcement in neighboring states.
Legalization advocates, including Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, point to the many positive benefits of legalization, including that it has reduced the burden on law enforcement within the state, citing the fact that marijuana possession arrests have dropped 84% in Colorado since 2010. Colorado is also experiencing significant benefits, including a decreasing unemploymentrate, more than $50 million in tax revenue in FY 2014-15, and reduced rates of burglary and homicide.
“Legalizing marijuana has allowed police to focus on real crimes but taken away their excuse for otherwise unjustified searches and seizures,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of criminal justice professionals opposed to the drug war. “Of course some law enforcement officers are going to be upset about that. But I would ask those officers to think about why they joined the force in the first place, why they risk their lives every day just to do their jobs. I doubt many would say it’s to go after low-level drug offenders, whose lives will largely be destroyed in the process and whose communities have come to see police as the enemy. They would say they went into this job because they wanted to protect people, to be heroes, and it’s about time they recognize that that’s the opposite of what they’re doing when they defend current drug policy.”
Public safety remains at the forefront of the marijuana legalization debate, with proponents citing that marijuana is easier for children to obtain where it is illegal, that arrest and conviction records harm users and that marijuana prohibition causes police officers to focus disproportionately on drug crimes, leaving violent crimes often unsolved. For instance, in 2013 there were an estimated 400,000 rape kits in the U.S. that had yet to be tested because drug testing of imprisoned defendants get prioritized over other examinations. The U.S. spends about $51 billion dollars per year on drug enforcement efforts, yet none of the intended goals of drug prohibition have been attained.
Alaska, Washington and Oregon have also legalized recreational marijuana sales. Alaska and Oregon regulators are in the process of writing the rules for how new marijuana businesses will operate there, and Washington has joined Colorado as the second state to safely and successfully sell marijuana legally.
I don’t think that any of the three lawsuits filed against Colorado have any merit, and hopefully will be fruitless. With that being said, I hope members of the American legal system don’t use it as a chance to decide the case on political grounds, rather than legal reasoning. Marijuana legalization has worked in Colorado, and with so many other states either legalizing marijuana, or pursuing marijuana legalization, the momentum keeps growing for nationwide reform. Marijuana opponents like the sheriffs that filed this latest lawsuit will soon go the way of the dinosaur.