Colorado Holding the Line on Marijuana Legalization

Voters in the state of Colorado effectively legalized marijuana when they approved a state amendment back in 2012.  But officials in two states – Nebraska and Oklahoma – are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to declare the approved amendment unconstitutional.

The stated reason for the lawsuit is that marijuana is freely flowing into bordering states.  This would, of course, make things more difficult on the drug warriors seeking to stamp out drugs in these other states.

Fortunately, the Attorney General of Colorado has vowed to defend the new state law and says that the lawsuit has no merit.

The funniest quote has to be from Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning who said, “While Colorado reaps millions from the sale of pot, Nebraska taxpayers have to bear the cost.”

The only reason that Nebraska taxpayers have to bear the cost is because it is forced on them by their government.  If enough voters in Nebraska favored legalization – or just not fighting a war on drugs – then they wouldn’t have to pay any cost.  They can choose to do the same thing that Colorado voters did or just choose not to go after marijuana sellers and users.

Taxing Drugs

A lot of people will say they favor legalization of marijuana or other drugs because it means the government can then tax it.  Personally, that is the one disadvantage I see of drug legalization.  I don’t really think governments at any level need more money to spend.  I suppose if the taxes from drugs meant eliminating other taxes, it might be acceptable, but we know that isn’t what happens.

But it is humorous to see these politicians struggle with this issue.  On the one hand, they want to control people’s lives and tell them what to do.  They like the war on drugs because it gives them more power and more excuses to encroach on people’s civil liberties.

On the other hand, politicians like to spend other people’s money and they are being deprived of some of the loot when they can’t tax the drugs that they have outlawed.

So while I don’t like additional tax money going to politicians, it is at least causing some to look twice at the issue, even if for the wrong reasons.  If more states legalize marijuana (or any other drugs) because they are seeking tax money, I still see it as a step in the right direction.

States’ Rights

From a Constitutional point of view, the U.S. Supreme Court should refuse to hear this lawsuit.  The entire federal war on drugs is unconstitutional in the first place.  It is certainly not an enumerated power listed in Article I, Section 8.

And in this case, Colorado has explicitly stated in its law that marijuana is legal.  There can be little question that this would trump federal law, even though the federal law should really be no law at all.

I think the most interesting scenario would be if the U.S. Supreme Court actually ruled against Colorado.  This would stir up a lot of trouble.  You would hear more talk about secession and nullification.

For this reason, I don’t think that will happen.  I think the Supreme Court will not rule for Nebraska and Oklahoma.  They are not going to risk a political riot by going against a clear majority of the people in Colorado.

In a sense, liberty lovers might actually hope the Supreme Court tries to strike down the law.  We might see Colorado officials simply ignore it.  This would be really bad news for the federal government, as it might set a precedent.

Over the last several years, more and more people have talked about the idea of nullification, where states refuse to enforce federal laws.  The federal government doesn’t want to see more of this, so we can expect the Supreme Court to actually do the right thing here and dismiss the lawsuit.

The people of Oklahoma and Nebraska can figure out how to deal with their situation without forcing other states on what to allow and what not to allow.  And if they can’t beat them, maybe they will join them.