Today the Supreme Court announced it would not rule on Colorado’s marijuana legalization laws.
The Court ruled it would not hear the case and thus, Nebraska’s and Okalahoma’s forays into fair weather federalism are over for the moment. They had wanted the Supreme Court to declare Colorado’s own state constitution and laws somehow illegal. The petition they filed details how Colorado’s new marijuana laws are not consistent with federal law (a given), and how that hurts Nebraska and Oklahoma.
You see, people who live in Nebraska and Oklahoma enjoy their intoxicants too, and instead of letting them making windfall tax receipts, Nebraska and Oklahoma would rather lock them up. So, now that Colorado has legal weed, people who live near Colorado just go there to buy weed because drug users actually prefer to deal with responsible vendors who sell quality merchandise rather than shady types dealing in unknown product. Something prohibition prevents and that which thrives in post-prohibition markets like Colorado.
Nebraska and Oklahoma argue that their own insistence on harsh penalties for recreational marijuana users has caused them to have to spend a lot on locking up people who have returned from Colorado with weed. Thus this damage somehow presents an issue for the Supreme Court to decide. The legal basis for the suit has been roundly criticised, and the federal government officially asked the Supreme Court not to hear the case.
As Cato’s Adam Bates puts it, “While some notable conservatives appear to be coming around in favor of a federalist experiment on drug legalization, it is a testament to the unfortunate power of the drug war that two state governments that routinely invoke the merits of federalism would abandon it in favor of federal prohibition.” That they would do using maverick legal arguments which, if adopted, would eviscerate the 10th Amendment is all the more troubling.