© 2023
NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Nebraska, Oklahoma Sue Colorado Over Recreational Marijuana

Luke Runyon
KUNC and Harvest Public Media

Two of Colorado’s neighboring states are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the state’s recreational marijuana laws. Attorneys General for Nebraska and Oklahoma say Colorado’s recreational marijuana laws clearly conflict with federal law, and they want the country’s highest court to shut the industry down.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning says since Colorado began recreational sales, sheriffs in border counties in the state’s western panhandle have been inundated with stoned drivers, increasing costs to rural law enforcement agencies. Though, when asked to quantify how much of a financial burden marijuana-related traffic stops are, Bruning didn’t have a dollar amount.

Nebraska is not seeking damages for increased law enforcement costs. This is purely a constitutional question, Bruning says.

“It’s frustrating to have a sister state reaping tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue and sending the problem side of to us,” Bruning says.

The lawsuit hinges on the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause, which requires states to follow federal law when conflict arises. Colorado’s marijuana laws are in conflict with the Controlled Substances Act, Bruning says, and the decision of federal prosecutors not to enforce drug laws is unconstitutional.

Other states that share borders with Colorado were approached to join the suit, Bruning says, but declined.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers says he’ll defend the marijuana laws, should the Supreme Court decide to hear the case.

“We are not entirely surprised by this action,” Suthers says. “However, 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. We believe this suit is without merit and we will vigorously defend against it in the U.S. Supreme Court.”

You can read the Nebraska, Oklahoma lawsuit online thanks to The Denver Post.

As KUNC’s managing editor and reporter covering the Colorado River Basin, I dig into stories that show how water issues can both unite and divide communities throughout the Western U.S. I edit and produce feature stories for KUNC and a network of public media stations in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Nevada.
Related Content