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High Court Legal Thriller For Cannabis Consumers and Industry

While not entirely unexpected by legal scholars and activists in the cannabis law reform community, it was still vexing and disappointing to see the politically dyed red states of Nebraska and Oklahoma file a lawsuit against the federal government to enforce federal anti-cannabis laws in the neighboring state of Colorado (the first state to effectively have tax-n-regulate policies for cannabis).

As of the date of this writing, the U.S. Supreme Court had not ruled on whether or not it will hear the lawsuit in the upcoming 2015 session. With a degree of caution and fear, freedom-loving adults who enjoy cannabis in Colorado, along with hundreds of cannabis-related businesses there, and their estimated 16,000 registered employees, wait with great anticipation to see if the issue of a state’s ability to legalize cannabis finds it way front-and-center before a reliably conservative SCOTUS this year.

The implications of a negative ruling from SCOTUS are obvious and manifest:

  • A negative legal precedent set in the case at bar will affect legalization laws and cannabis commerce in other states beyond Colorado.
  • The hundreds of millions of dollars that have been raised and already invested by private investors into thousands of cannabis-related companies nationwide will become, in a word, distressed.
  • Could stymy efforts by cannabis law reformers from trying to pass    legalization initiatives in 2016, notably in the country’s most important state, California.

On the bright side, if the high court takes the case, regardless of the ruling, the issue of cannabis legalization, the failure of prohibition, states’ rights and democracy for the will of voters will be catapulted into the national limelight in a manner never likely seen before in the mainstream media and national consciousness. Also, these lawsuits have added to the growing fissure between moral and libertarian-leaning conservatives, many of whom have publicly derided the state attorney generals from NE and OK for launching a lawsuit against a state for simply implementing the will of its voters.

Numerous liberal and conservative legal scholars uniformly opine that they don’t think the U.S. Supreme Court will take the case, be it for lack of standing, or, the justices recognize at base if the court were to rule in favor of these states’ complaint against Colorado, it would…

1) set a bad precedent for state’s suing each other

And

2) if NE and OK prevail before them, then the outcome in Colorado is not the continuation of the uneasy Detente currently underway in these numerous ‘rogue’ states that have liberalized their cannabis laws. Instead the policy outcome would very likely be characterized as ‘political and legal chaos’ (because the feds can’t force a state to have and enforce cannabis prohibition laws).

If NE and OK were to prevail in their lawsuit then CO would in effect go back to a pre-prohibition condition where there are no identification cards checked, criminal syndicates controlling the marketplace, no regulations or social controls on cultivation and distribution, no law enforcement re-prioritizing towards crime citizens deem more important and none of the millions in tax revenues coming into state coffers.

Regrettably, for the short run, if the states of NE and OK were to prevail with the feds against neighboring CO, the whole politico-legal affair might be able to be characterized as ‘careful what you wish were, you might just get it’.

Allen St. Pierre is the executive director of NORML in Washington, D.C., norml.org

 

Rob Meagher

Rob Meagher

Rob Meagher, CBE’s Founder, President and Editor-in-Chief is a 30 year veteran of the media world. His career has spanned from stints representing the Washington Post, USA Weekend, Reader’s Digest, Financial World & Corporate Finance to the technology world where he worked at International Data Group and Ziff Davis where he was part of the launch team for The Web Magazine, Yahoo Internet Life, Smart Business and Expedia Travels before starting his own marketing and Publisher’s Representative Firm. He also ran all print and online media sales and marketing for the Society for Human Resource Management before partnering with Forbes and then Fortune to create Special Sections covering a variety of topics. Rob, who started CBE Press in 2014, can be contacted at [email protected]

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