Proponents of the push for medical and retail marijuana in Colorado, and throughout the United States, have won a key legal battle.
But questions are still persisting about how long this victory will last, and if the latest decision will impact local cannabis bans.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit filed by two other states, challenging Colorado’s pro-marijuana laws. In Nov. 2012, Colorado voters opted to legalize the recreational use and possession of a limited amount of marijuana by adults, a verdict that has generated much controversy.
By taking the latest step, the Supreme Court basically relayed the message that “marijuana is a political debate and not a legal one,” according to industry experts. More specifically, the court refused to consider a lawsuit, filed by officials in Nebraska and Oklahoma, which maintains that Colorado’s pro-pot measures are unconstitutional because they flaunt federal drug restrictions.
This action could clear the path for pro-marijuana laws in Colorado and in more than 20 other states that currently permit medical and recreational marijuana, or are considering such measures. Marijuana industry advocates are viewing the Supreme Court’s rejection of this case as a big victory, and a clear signal that states are free to legalize marijuana if they want to.
“States have every right to regulate the cultivation and sales of marijuana, just as Nebraska and Oklahoma have the right to maintain their failed prohibition policies,” said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, according to an Associated Press report. “Colorado has done more to control marijuana than just about any other state in the nation. It will continue to set an example for other states that are considering similar laws in legislatures and at the ballot box.”
Not so fast, argue reefer opponents, who are cautioning pro-cannabis proponents about relishing this so-called legal victory. Cannabis opponents classify the recent decision by the Supreme Court as one impacted by presidential politics. According to Sam Kamlin, a law professor at the University of Denver, the decision means that the court doesn’t want to take up the issue, until a new president takes office. “It doesn’t mean that all the legal wrangling is done,” said Kamlin, according to the Associated Press.
President Barack Obama has declared a hands-off policy in federal-related anti-marijuana enforcement in states that have legalized the medical or recreational use of pot for adults, with certain limitations. But that stand could definitely change if GOP front-runner Donald Trump wins the presidential election, or even if Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton prevails. The candidate that has favored the industry the most is Bernie Sanders, the governor of Vermont and Clinton’s sole Democratic challenger. But Sanders faces a long-shot bid in his quest for the party’s nomination, despite several impressive caucus victories last weekend.
But regardless, the Supreme Court verdict surprised many political observers, considering the conservative flavor of the court. The fact that the court rejected the anti-marijuana lawsuits is a further indication that the legal views regarding the cannabis industry, and the previous push for prohibition, are changing.
Colorado officials are still questioning the court’s non-committal stand regarding pro-marijuana laws. Several key lawmakers, such as Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, argue that Colorado still needs more guidance from the feds pertaining to how it handles the marijuana situation.
And even with the Supreme Court verdict, it doesn’t appear likely that local governments will back away from bans against allowing recreational marijuana outlets. A recent candidates’ forum in Woodland Park didn’t leave any impression of a desire by elected leaders to lift the city’s ban against future marijuana shops.
To date, Manitou Springs is the only community in the Pikes Peak region that permits retail marijuana. As for medicinal marijuana, moratoriums are still in place against new outlets.
Meanwhile, a huge brouhaha has developed over private pot clubs in Colorado Springs, with the city council outlawing a bevy of current marijuana clubs and requiring them to cease operations after a number of years. But most likely, this decision could land in court.