The states of Nebraska and Oklahoma made national headlines on Thursday by filing a lawsuit with the U.S. Supreme Court, alleging Colorado’s legalization of marijuana has done costly harm to both states.
I’m not a legal expert, but beyond the exact issues with the Supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution and other laws in question, it seems to me that the lawsuit doesn’t pass the common sense test.
To blame one state for skyrocketing the costs of prosecuting certain crimes in other states fails to take various common sense issues into account.
First of all, as we saw in our own state and by our own Federal government, enforcement agencies have latitude when it comes to deciding the priority of enforcing and prosecuting certain laws.
Denver decided before Amendment 64 passed to make enforcing minor marijuana laws a low priority. The federal government has done the same last year.
Because of that freedom, a state would not need to see resources being drained trying to enforce one particular law.
We have seen this flexibility of enforcement when it has come to illegal immigration. Some states decide to pursue violations more vigorously, but all come at the issue with choice and the ability to adapt due to resources.
But beyond the basic common sense of enforcement flexibility, this tactic also fails the political common sense test.
Neighboring states having issues with newly legalized pot is nothing new. But as everyone knows, you get many more bees with honey than with vinegar.
If Oklahoma and Nebraska really wanted to address budget concerns due to marijuana law enforcement, both states should have addressed our state government directly, without a lawsuit.
Everyone knows that Colorado has a governor in John Hickenlooper who loves to not only make people happy, but also has great experience at making deals.
Both Nebraska and Oklahoma could have worked a deal with Hickenlooper and Colorado to either offset costs in other areas or work with the state on addressing the perceived problem.
I say “perceived problem” because that is what I think this really comes down to for the states involved.
The fact of the matter is we are quickly heading towards an age that tolerates widespread use of medical marijuana and eventual recreational use.
Colorado and Washington state are proving that recreational pot is not without problems, nor is it a budgetary panacea. But we have also shown that marijuana is simply a commodity that is going through normal struggles in the newly regulated marketplace.
We see stories of occasional problems, and they need to be addressed. But Amendment 64 didn’t turn Colorado into Ridgemont High, and more and more states are looking to normalize medical marijuana.
If Nebraska and Oklahoma do not want to embrace the future early, that is fine. But they do not need to drag Colorado back to the 1950s with them.
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– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here usually every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.