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Marijuana Legalization Sets Off Potential Precedent-Setting Supreme Court Battle Between Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado


"I think it’s a moral issue. It’s a gateway drug that is a detriment to society."

In this Dec. 5, 2013, photo marijuana matures in ideal conditions at the Medicine Man dispensary and grow operation in northeast Denver. As Colorado prepares to be the first in the nation to allow recreational pot sales, opening Jan. 1, hopeful retailers are investing their fortunes into the legal recreational pot world, all for a chance to build even bigger ones in a fledgling industry that faces an uncertain future. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski) AP Photo/Ed Andrieski

Some have openly welcomed the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado, but two of the state's neighbors are less than pleased with the drug's increased prevalence and its associated legal and judicial complications.

In a rare move, Nebraska and Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against Colorado with the U.S. Supreme Court this week, arguing that the legalization of pot, which took place in 2012 with the adoption of Amendment 64, is unconstitutional, NPR reported.

The states charge that Colorado isn't doing enough to ensure that the drug remains inside of its borders, putting pressure on officials in Nebraska and Oklahoma to uphold federal law, which bans the drug.

File - In this Dec. 5, 2013 file photo, marijuana matures at the Medicine Man dispensary and grow operation in northeast Denver. Colorado voters still support the state law that legalized recreational marijuana, but most believe it is hurting the image of the state, according to a new poll released Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. The Quinnipiac University Poll found that 51 percent of voters overall believe the measure is bad for the state's reputation, while 38 percent see it as a net positive. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, file) AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, file AP Photo/Ed Andrieski

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, who is set to leave office this month, announced the lawsuit Thursday, claiming that Colorado's legalization of marijuana has created a new set of problems in his state, including a spike in police discovering marijuana and more impaired drivers, according to NET.

"I think it’s a moral issue. It’s a gateway drug that is a detriment to society. I think this is a critical issue to the future of our state," Bruning said. "I don’t want it to be a legal option for my children or your option or anyone’s children in this state or in this country."

But it appears Colorado is prepared to go to bat for its pot law, with Attorney General John Suther calling the case brought by Nebraska and Oklahoma "without merit," NET reported.

"It appears the plaintiffs’ primary grievance stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado," he said. "We believe this suit is without merit."

There's clearly debate over both the lawsuit and the overarching issue of marijuana legalization. Nebraska sheriff Mark Overman, who serves in Bluff County, said that he's hoping to see other states join in on the complaint.

Credit: AP AP

"I think this is overdue, and I think other states should jump on board," he said, according to the Associated Press. "I'm very frustrated. I take an oath of office, as does every other police officer in this country. I don't just get to pick and choose which laws I enforce."

The Supreme Court will ultimately have to decide if the complaint is worth parsing out, though there is no precedent to follow on this issue, making it difficult for scholars to predict what will happen.

Nebraska and Oklahoma are essentially asking the high court whether Colorado has the right to supersede federal law on marijuana by enacting a state law that patently disregards it.

(H/T: NPR)

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