Fair and Unbalanced

Mike Littwin

"The pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handles."

Littwin: The Great Pot Shot

Littwin: The Great Pot Shot

Now we know what they do on a slow day (in other words, every day but ‘Husker game day) in Nebraska. They take their neighbors to court.

And so, we now have the Great Pot Shot, in which Nebraska and Oklahoma are suing Colorado for not just legalizing weed, but for — yes — dealing it. Unless you buy the slow-day angle, you’re probably as confused as I am. In this world, pot’s the gateway drug and Colorado has become the Gateway State.

According to the suit filed with the Supreme Court — yes, that Supreme Court, the one where people rarely file nuisance lawsuits unless they involve Obamacare — it’s a border issue, although not the kind we’re used to. In this case, it’s Nebraskans and Oklahomans apparently crossing the border with Colorado to buy weed and then bring it back to, say, Nebraska or Oklahoma. To sell it. Or smoke it. Or eat it. As if they didn’t already have weed to buy in, say, Nebraska or Oklahoma. This is just a wild guess, but I’d say that the pot needs in those states were being met long before anyone thought of legalization in Colorado.

And yet, if you read the suit, you’ll find that this nasty bit of smuggling is costing smallish border towns big bucks in jail time and for overtime when the local constabulary is stopping cars on the way back from Colorado on account of, I don’t know, maybe violating Nebraska’s MWD — Munching While Driving — laws. And someone has to pay.

Recreational pot has been legal in Colorado for a year, and unless some attention-seeking attorney general files a lawsuit or Maureen Dowd writes a column about seeing bats, it’s hardly an issue here, at all.

As the Dude would say, this aggression will not stand, man.

Still, there are a few things I’m confused about. One, it’s already illegal to take pot out of the state. And two, in any case, an out-of-state resident can legally buy only one-quarter ounce of pot at a time. Even if you hit a few shops per visit, that’s going to mean a lot of trips and a lot of overhead — even with lower gas prices — for the Nebraska cartels.

But let’s suppose this actually does represent a problem for close-to-Colorado stops like Deuel County, Nebraska (pop. 1941). But how big a problem, really? Deuel Sheriff Adam Hayward told USA Today that his officers are tied up for hours dealing with traffic stops that turn into pot busts. And, gosh, it’s worse than that.

Hayward said that it’s not just pot, but that he has also seen a significant increase in meth and heroin, which, last I checked, have never been legal in Colorado. If this is starting to sound like either an Onion article or a sequel to Reefer Madness, read on: Hayward also says that legal Colorado pot dealers are “selling marijuana out the front door, legal marijuana, and illegal drugs out the back door.”

Was the whole Amendment 64 thing just an excuse to smuggle drugs into surrounding states? If so, and if you voted for legalizing pot, aren’t you expecting a taste?

Some things the suit doesn’t say: How much pot is being brought into Nebraska/Oklahoma other than a “significant influx,” why other border states haven’t joined in, how much money it has actually cost Nebraska/Oklahoma. What it does say is that Colorado’s pot law has placed “unnecessary burdens” on them. So now they seek to place unnecessary burdens on us.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt told the Wall Street Journal it was legal for Colorado to pass its pot laws, but that the problem is found in the regulations, which set up the process by which pot can come from Colorado, where it’s now legal, to Oklahoma, where it’s not. “One state,” Pruitt told the Journal, “can’t adopt a law or to do something that conflicts with the law of and polices of another state.”

Not everyone agrees. In fact, a lot of people don’t agree. Writing in the Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform blog, Vanderbilt law professor Robert Mikos says the the suit “lacks merit.” He adds, “As I’ve explained before, Congress can’t force states to criminalize marijuana. It follows that Congress also can’t stop states from legalizing marijuana; after all, legalization is just repeal of criminalization.”

And of course the Justice Department has said that it will allow states to enforce their pot laws — leaving Colorado and Washington to do their own enforcement. And then there’s Colorado Attorney General John Suthers — who vigorously opposed Amendment 64 — who now says he will vigorously defend Colorado’s pot laws. Maybe he meant it when he said his views didn’t matter back when he was going to the mat opposing same-sex marriage.

And then there are the voters. The Colorado experience led to votes last month to legalize pot in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C. Starting with Colorado and the state of Washington, this is now more than a trend — it’s closer to a movement. You can expect more and more states, if not Nebraska or Oklahoma, to follow suit.

In fact, it’s nearly a year now, and unless some attention-seeking attorney general files a lawsuit or Maureen Dowd writes a column about seeing bats, it’s hardly even an issue here. As I was saying the other day, Denver defied all predictions that it would somehow turn into the next Amsterdam. And, since it has come up, I’d say it’s even a better bet that Denver is not going to turn into Lincoln, Neb.

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About the Author

Mike Littwin

He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
mlittwin@coloradoindependent.com | Twitter @mike_littwin


  1. Vic on said:

    Very true that it’s a dumb lawsuit. But this is an even dumber line: “Hardly even an issue here” … Wanna ask the children of Richard Kirk or the parents of Levy Thamba? Did you sleep through the November election? A dozen towns banned pot shops.

  2. John McKiernan on said:

    And those are the same State Attorneys General who have argued the opposite position on Federal authority over States rights on things like the ACA and a right to marry.

    The only consistency appears to be “My State gets to do what I want.”

  3. Will Morrison on said:

    Nice how republicans believe in state’s rights UNTIL they don’t. And how they want to keep the feds out of everything until they don’t. And how they think that the citizens should be the ones in charge of making their own decisions. Except when they don’t. And now these two want to tell the people of ANOTHER state how to run their business? Yeah, THAT’S right in line with their standards of hypocrisy.

    Fact is, you two are not only on the wrong side of this argument, but you’re wasting your state’s money in a frivolous lawsuit. You have NO standing here. And if it’s ruled that you MIGHT, then you can count on a whole slew of lawsuits between states over all kinds of things they don’t like that YOU do. Turnabout is fair play, after all.

    Now, as to the accusation that dispensaries are selling illegal things out the back door, that is worthy of a demand for proof. I work in the pro lighting industry and we sell a LOT of grow light to a LOT of dispensaries. These are the MOST security conscious people I’ve EVER met, nice as they are, and NOTHING gets sold out of ANY of them that isn’t 100% legal and accounted for. This deputy in another state CLEARLY has NO freaking idea of what he’s saying, he is LYING and creating an issue where NONE exists. He needs to be censured for this. It’s blatantly wrong, and he should apologize publicly.

    The fact is, this is NOT a problem for these states that they aren’t making for themselves. They are wrong in their assessment of the situation, they are making things worse for THEMSELVES, and it’s NOT our problem. If their citizens can’t be controlled well enough to keep them pure as the driven snow, then I suggest you build a damned wall. This is YOUR problem for being such a batch of authoritarian jerks.

    When your farmers find out that in ONE greenhouse they can pay for the rest of their farm, they will want in on it. And when your legislature sees the taxes that come IN as opposed to the people’s lives they ruin while spending tens of million a year on a futile attempt to stop people from being HUMAN, they will want in too. You two are the idiots who will go down in history as being two losers who can’t see the future even though it’s staring you right in the face.

    Stand up for failure all you want, but the game is up. Your response to this tells me that you ARE failures who don’t understand reality at all. Don’t sue us for being RIGHT. Sue yourself for being stupid.

    And put that lawsuit back where you pulled it from.

  4. Scott Sammons on said:

    I was going to write a comment but Will pretty much said it all.
    I’ll just add that I live in Douglas county which outlawed Pot stores. Douglas county is run by Right wing republicans that hate state’s rights, love big federal government and despise small business, just like NE and OK

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