The U.S. Supreme Court has asked the Obama administration for its views on a dispute between states over Colorado's 2012 legalization of marijuana. Legal Times says the action is a sign that the high court is interested in the dispute, which came to the justices through its “original jurisdiction” over lawsuits between the states. Then-Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning (succeeded by Doug Peterson) and Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt brought the case to the Supreme Court in December. Original-jurisdiction cases usually involve boundaries or water rights, but this case would air a major policy dispute over commerce in drugs.
“In our constitutional system, the federal government has pre-eminent authority to regulate interstate and foreign commerce, including commerce involving legal and illegal trafficking in drugs such as marijuana,” the states say. They add, “Although states may exercise their police power in a manner which has an effect on drug policy and trafficking, a state may not establish its own policy that is directly counter to federal policy against trafficking in controlled substances or establish a state-sanctioned system for possession, production, licensing, and distribution of drugs.” The lawsuit does not challenge the legalization of marijuana use in Colorado as such, focusing instead on the manufacture and sale of the drug across state lines. The U.S. Justice Department, while not endorsing the Colorado measure, has said it would not challenge it unless it damagespublic safety and health.