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On Behalf Of Two Coloradans, D.C. Group Sues State Over Marijuana

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The state of Colorado is facing new lawsuits over recreational marijuana legalization. The Washington D.C. based Safe Streets Alliance is suing the state in federal court to try and close down the industry.

"It is illegal under federal law to sell marijuana and in this country federal law is the supreme law of the land," said David Thompson, the lead attorney for the Safe Streets Alliance.

This latest challenge to Colorado comes from a hotel owner and a local land holder. Hope Reilly and her husband own 105 acres of land in Pueblo County – an area that is booming for the marijuana economy. She said that she is horrified to watch the construction of a marijuana cultivation facility adjacent to her property.

"We and our children visit our land on most weekends to go horseback riding and hiking, but what was once an escape from the troubles of the city now sits in the shadow of a commercial marijuana facility," said Reilly. "The impact of this on our property is devastating."

The second plaintiff owns the Frisco Holiday Inn in Frisco, Colorado. A marijuana shop is a minute's walk from the hotel and the owner said it is driving away parents and coaches of youth ski teams who frequently stay there.

"Guests do not want to bring their teenage children to a hotel across from a recreational marijuana store," Thompson said.

Courtesy of the Marijuana Policy Project
Mason Tvert, with the Marijuana Policy Project, speaking at the podium in response to the suit brought by the Safe Street Alliance.

Nebraska and Oklahoma have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Colorado's law, but this is the first legal challenge of its kind against marijuana legalization. Supporters of legalized pot said the state is regulating the industry responsibly and the taxes from marijuana are funding important programs such as drug education and school construction.

"I'm a little sick of rehashing the same story over and over again, the drug war is over," said Representative Jonathon Singer (D-Longmont)." I think they're wasting our time and wasting our tax dollars...I hope they stay in Colorado a little longer and realize the sky hasn't fallen."

Marijuana advocates said the lawsuits have no merit.

"This effort is being spearheaded by 'just say no' era anti-marijuana warriors from the Reagan Justice Department," said Mason Tvert with the Marijuana Policy Project. "These folks have been trying to keep marijuana illegal for years and they need to get over it."

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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