Supreme Court Turns Back Challenge To Marijuana Legalization Laws

Supreme Court justices today declined to consider a 2014 suit challenging the legality of Colorado’s regulations permitting the state-licensed production and retail sale of cannabis to adults.

Justices decided in a 6-2 vote to reject the lawsuit, filed by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt, which sought to strike down Colorado’s law on the basis that it is “fundamentally at odds” with the federal Controlled Substances Act. A majority of the Court turned back the petition in an unsigned opinion, while Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented.

The plaintiffs in the suit now say that they are contemplating filing a similar legal challenge in federal district court.

NORML Legal Counsel Keith Stroup previously described the lawsuit as “more political theater than a serious legal challenge.”

38 thoughts

  1. This is big news! It may’ve been considered a done deal by some, but I hate leaving anything up to chance. One more attempt by the prohibitionists turned away! I believe it’ll be tougher for them to go the same route anytime soon.

  2. where does the strange hate come from ? my guess:

    first please think of all the negative cliches about pot-smokers (how they talk and behave etc)… Now think of the negative cliches about politicians (talk, behavior, etc) –>> the more you think about this, the funnier it gets

    conclusion: the politicians use the pot-cliches to mask their own stupidity, innit ?

  3. Political theater: I keep imagining a musical comedy, a kind of dirty-dancing high school theme, where OK and NE are the “squares” who resent the hell out of the new “cool” kid in school, CO, who is stealing all the girls hearts and minds and so forth with his marijuana and his independent, anti-authoritarian style. So NE and OK decide to beat CO up; they conspire with the corrupt high school principle, Antonin Scalia, to set CO up for a beating on prom night… but as fate would have it, Scalia falls into the punch bowl and drowns in a freak accident… and CO sidesteps his enemies, and turns prom night into a real party!!

    (Did I see that movie somewhere already?)

      1. I didn’t have a specific movie or play in mind, just a general kind of familiar theme, which I think you’ve nailed on the head with your picks. You get the idea!

  4. I often get the impression the Supreme Court wants reform to come from the bottom up and not via some legal decision.

  5. Wow. Clarification that Ive been posting on this blog for quite some time;

    December 27, 2014 at 2:23 am
    Clarification on Colorado’s affirmative defense;
    “Colorado is setting an example of reducing arrests of nonviolent marijuana possessions and increasing arrests on violent crimes such as rapes and murders. The claim that Nebraska and Oklahoma are “forced” to increase arrests on nonviolent marijuana possessions is a fraudulent claim based on a groundless policy of prohibition and the unconstitutional scheduling of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. Oklahoma and Nebraska are therefore causing collateral damages to Colorado by not directing their resources on violent crimes, and allowing their criminals to spill into the borders of Colorado.”

    As much as I wish THAT was the reason our Supreme Court rejected the hubris of the attorney generals of Oklahoma and Nebraska, the sad truth is that Justice Scalia died last month and left a split court up to whether or not the plaintiffs would even be heard by a lower court… OF WHICH NEBRASKA and OKLAHOMA NEVER FILED in a LOWER COURT!!!
    So we need to be on guard and DELAY every lower court case being filed on Colorado until next year by any means necessary until ONE branch of our government has the balls to define justice and finally, permanently, END the Controlled Substances Act.

      1. Julian,

        Appreciating the irony, and understanding that one way to defeat the prohibition of marijuana is to find a way to get the Supreme Court to consider the question of the unconstitutionality of the existing federal definition of marijuana, although it refuses to be “activist” in this matter.

        Is it not true that legislation is the only other way to effect reform? A reform of that definition was proposed here in response to Keith’s blog, “My 2016 New Year’s Resolutions”, on January 2, 2016. A lengthy and spirited discussion ensued, but the arguments against that reform seemed ineffective. That unjust definition remains unchanged, as well as unchallenged, so it keeps causing havoc. Any suggestions on how to get more parents and nonsmokers involved in marijuana reform?

      2. Hello again Year of Take Action,
        Oh nemesis of legal definitions…
        Let’s do a recap of what your redefinition of the Controlled Substances Act to cannabis sativa pertaining only to the “smoke,” means, and what we get is a privatized medical industry, no rescheduling much less descheduling of marijuana and still disproportionate jail time for small possessions of marijuana across various states.

        What are your possible advantages you perceive to receive by focusing on calling marijuana the “smoke of cannabis sativa l. while cannabis is still stuck in schedule 1? Do you have stocks in GW Pharmaceuticals? Do you represent a Sherriff’s Association in Nebraska?

        You change your definition, and people still go to jail or at best still pay up the @$$ for CBD oil from GW Pharma…

        When if we legalize and deschedule, people could be getting medicaid to pay through a certified nurse practitioner for the strain that treats them best.

        Why pray tell, do you cling to the misconception that redefining marijuana as “smoke” will somehow legalize marijuana? Or is that even your goal?

      3. And to answer your question, you’ll notice I changed your name to “Year of Take Action.”
        Mothers and non-smokers need the whole truth. If one does not partake, they will never understand the full benefits of marijuana, but they can damn sure understand when its wrong that the same Department of Health and Human Services that takes custody of children for treating them with the only safe and effective medicine available also own$ US patent 6630507 for “cannabinoids as neuroprotectants” and are CURRENTLY PROFITING from the patent’s partial sale to GW Pharmaceuticals! Even a KID knows THAT $#!+ is fucking wrong!

        But I will give you one, minor concession; Most Mothers prefer to see someone vaporize than hit a roach with a randy or a clip. But that is mostly due to the inscribed fear of prohibition itself, fearing children being arrested, taken custody of and mistreated in confinement. So at family barbecues, football games and reunions I would suggest vaporizing to get more mothers in the conversation. But don’t try and tell me vaporizing should be the only safe, legal way to consume marijuana, because then I know that you’re only blowing “smoke.” 😉

      4. It is not redefining marijuana so much as just pointing it out. It is really quite simple. By reforming the definition of marijuana to state that it is the smoke, then there is no need to read between the lines, because it is explained right there in that definition. As well, there are fewer lines of text in the definition of marijuana, thus fewer lines to try to read between, and fewer opportunities to misinterpret that definition.

        When the definition states that marijuana is the smoke, then marijuana is no longer legally confused with the cannabis plant, and marijuana remains in Schedule 1 until it gets rescheduled, which should not take too long considering all of the medical studies that NORMAL has featured. The definition looks worse, but it is actually better because unburned cannabis will definitely NOT be in the Schedules, thus the cannabis plant will be re-legalized. Oh, the impatience of smokers of the plant which is cannabis. You do know that marijuana is not a plant, it is a federal term because that is what the federal definition says it is, as does the reformed definition. The meaning of the term is what gets changed for the better by the reform, so that mothers and non-smokers can be reacquainted with the benefits of cannabis, its cannabinoids, its fibers, and its many products.

        Oh snap. You must be benefiting from the perpetuation of the confusion caused by the existing federal definition. By calling for its legalization, you can continue benefiting from that definition, since we know that definition cannot be legalized because it has a circumlocutory format. Ooh, so sly…

        [Editor’s note: “You do know that marijuana is not a plant”…Talk about actively sewing seeds of confusion! BTW, heads up: you sound crazy when you write insane statements like the one above and try to pass them off as policy discourse…NORML’s webpage is not a home for crazy talk about cannabis.

        Cannabis is being legalized regardless of whatever mind-numbing semantics you choose to engage and there is nothing, thankfully, NORML or any other public interest group–for and against cannabis–can do to stop the end of its prohibition from arriving in the US sooner than not.]

  6. As a minister, I can atest there are many stereotypes, and like alcohol, cannabis expounds upon character, so if a person is a dumbass before, they will be a more effective dumbass without inhibition afterward, hence the stereotyping. There are many millions more functional, contributing users however that create, play, sing, and build and encourage, and Love. The positive far outweigh the negative, and as far as I know, Deepest Faith Ministries is the ONLY Church in the World, that does not condemn someone for use, regardless of the intake method, or desired effect. I value any feedback, and pray you would support our efforts to have a Sanctuary available for worship to God, for those who use and do not dare the shame of condemnation by others.

    1. i just want to say thank you for feeling like you do about this subject because in attending either bible study or sunday service with a responsible buzz, i found much peace, focus,understanding and love for the folks beside me as well as the trinity. i do not believe that my preacher may have understood as well as you seem to altho he is a wonderful man who can bring the written word to us by comparing its principles to todays living.thank you for being so open reverend!

    2. As a practicing Catholic who believes only few parts of the bible are literally true I may not make the best case for you Reverend Casey, as I don’t believe that NORML is the best organization to recruit or represent religious affiliations, even those welcoming a cannabis consumer to its doors.
      With that said, in reference to your church being the “only church in the world that does not condemn someone for use” I’m afraid you missed the Ethiopian Coptic Church, Rastafari, and there actually is a First Church of Cannabis registered as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt institution in the state of Indiana created in response to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed last year and apparently inspired by an episode of the Flintstones Loyal Society of Waterbuffalos. One of their “12 commandments” includes abstention from internet trolling, (so I guess all my angry posts to my Congressman’s website would leave me excommunicated before initiation).
      Oh well; can’t have my medible and eat it to, at least in Indiana. Sadly, the effort seems opportunistic and misguided;

      There are in fact real religious cultural ties humanity has with cannabis, which may have inspired all major religions as everyone from Jesus to Moses, Buddha all the way back to Sheh Nung 10,000 years ago in China all partook in the sacrament of the herb. A very good study on the subject was written by Dr. Michael Pollan in Cannabis, Forgetting, and the Botany of Desire;

      Here, Dr. Pollan sugests that a coevolution with cooking and consuming cannabis may have sparked a religious self awareness stimulated by the plant’s chemical desire to use our feet to reproduce itself. This idea is supported by the speciation of homo sapiens from homo erectus 1.5 million years ago in central Asia, where cannabis is believed to have evolved out of the Himilayan valleys.

      1. We should be very careful by associating any single religion with cannabis, a plant that shares a symbiotic relationship with humanity and played a vital role in the evolution of the human identity.
        For me personally, cannabis reminds me that we are not singular institutions of thought, conquering nature with our monoculture of agriculture; We in fact are all diverse components of a living macroorganism, a living universe whose sustainability lives and dies with our breathing, living planet, in the same way we would not live without the microbes and bacteria that live in our guts and permeate our flesh.

        According to Indian tradition and writings, Siddhartha used and ate nothing but hemp and its seeds for six years prior to announcing his truths and becoming the Buddha in the 5th century BC.

        Jesus spent more than a decade living among the Sythians who threw bales of cannabis into ceremonial fires during prayer circles and rites of passage. Moses may have ordered specific ingredients in the holy anointing oils, but according to anthropologist Sulah Benet in her book “Early Diffusions and Folk History of Hemp,” the etymology of the word cannabis comes from early semitic languages referring to “kanneh bosem,” which were the holy anointing oils.
        From the ancient Persian prophet Zoroaster, it may very well have been a Zoriaster wise man who brought baby Jesus cannabis in the common form of incense, possibly a fusion of less psychoactive cannabis sativa local to the area with more potent variety of indica from India that was traded up the through the Red Sea.
        So, my dear Reverend Casey, we are far, far from “alone” in the religious practices of Cannabis, but perhaps more as human beings a religious practice of cannabis itself…
        Here is some more history of cannabis and religion;

    3. I’m left over from the days of Steven Gaskin and The Farm in Tennessee.

      I’m not a big fan of demigods and deities, preferring to walk in Nature with a mind clear of the endless internal chatter that people who don’t meditate often view as themselves. As near as I can tell I’m a Scientific Pantheist and a bit of a mystic who prefers to interpret any insights/revelations in modern terms.

      I don’t really like to use the term ‘mystic’, because they always seem like phonies to me.

      I’m 66. As I near the end of my life, I find great comfort in the transcendence I experienced back in the 1960s.

  7. The rejection by the Supremes has positioned the cannabis community for a huge step forward, that huge step being legal cannabis banking.

    No need to wait for formalities at the UN. The feds should just allow it BECAUSE cannabis is not going away. It’s here to stay. The UN will have to change its position on cannabis prohibition, and allow countries to regulate it as they see fit, even if that means legalizing it for all purposes: industrial, medical, and adult recreational.

    Unfortunately, the feds/Congress is probably waiting for the UN to clear the way first to get all the international bullshit out of the way, and then FINALLY will give us legal banking. Barry, you have got to get the UN out of the way of the cannabis community. Personally’s better than sending a representative. Trudeau and others putting together a whole team, I hope.

  8. I am hoping for legal cannabis banking right soon. With the federal government staying off the backs of the cannabis community, states like mine–Pennsylvania–don’t have to fear the feds swooping in making raids or threatening the banks. The IRS then remains to treat the cannabis community more fairly, let us take the tax breaks others get, and stop penalizing us for having to pay in ca$h!

    Other states will soon jump on that cannabi$ ca$h train with fewer and fewer obstacles.

    PA Medical Marijuana Train Slows For Now
    March 21, 2016 5:05 PM By Tony Romeo

    By Tony Romeo

    PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It appears it will be at least few more weeks before a medical marijuana bill can get to Governor Wolf’s desk.

    The state Senate passed a medical marijuana bill last spring. The House finally acted on that bill last week, but it amended the Senate bill, sending it back to the Senate.

    But it appears the Senate will not take up the medical marijuana bill this week, and when it does, it is likely to make further amendments to the bill.

    Read the whole article below:

  9. Kinda wish the supreme court took the case. Probably would have ruled in favor of Colorado, effectively legalizing on the federal level?

  10. I think we are missing one important point. If you carefully read the Solicitor General’s view brief The U.S.A.G.’s position is based entirely on proceedural ground. The main reason the USAG was against this case going foward has more to do with what the CSA subchapter one actually says. Remember Steve Cohen’s grilling of Eric Holder last year? that had to do with subchapter one and who actually has scheduling athority. Since the Justice Department and the DEA are joined at the hip and Obama’s insistance that it was the sole perview of congress and not the USAG, I believe the Justice Department didn’t want to risk a full legal vetting of the CSA. Remember when SCOTUS ordered the EPA to regulate carbon as a polutant? I don’t think that neither that the justice department nor the DEA wanted to risk SCOTUS ,possibly, ordering the the AG to either reshedule or deschedule especially if this case went into a special master session. That would be Loretta Lynch’s worst nightmare and destroy the notion that it’s congress’ responsibility only. this would be a big embarrasment for Obama.

    “Congress send me a bill”. What a joke.

    1. True, the solicitor general called this a procedural error, because it was evident to the procedure of the Supreme Court that the case would have been heard if the plaintiffs had first submitted to a lower court. But they didn’t because the AGs of Nebraska and Oklahoma knew they had a weak case claiming damages against a “third party.” As Keith originally and correctly surmised this was all political theater to instill uncertainty during a pivotal election year that will finally take medical cannabis legalization into the majority where a legitimate counterclaim could finally be heard by a more liberal Supreme Court next year that challenges the entire CSAct on Constitutional grounds.

      Colorado could even create legitimate claims for damages against Nebraska and Oklahoma for wasting resources on nonviolent crimes and allowing their over-pharmaceutically medicated criminals escape into Colorado to prey upon their citizens.

      President Obama was a Contitutional Professor and president of Harvard law; He knew taking executive action to early with divided government and less than a majority of legalized states would end up unfavorably in court; Particularly with legislatively legalizing Vermont hanging in the balance…

      Currently President Obama left Cuba for Buenos Aires, and drug policy will never be the same internationally as we head for UNGASS next month. The real question is what will Obama do during a lame duck session in November, after elections, when the Supreme Court will be primed to a hear a real case, when international drug policy has shifted, when retiring Presidents are most notable for offering prize executive actions?

      1. Guess maybe many Nebraskahomans were newly ordering cannabis first time from Colorado, not foreseeing every danger, thus easy to catch, predator cop’s achievement rating goes up, prohibs crow etc.

        Meanwhile in CO (not the monoxide) cops freed from weedcrackdowntimewaste had more time to watch and catch violent offenders– maybe not necessarily due to any particular increase in the latter invading from prohib neighborstates.

        And of course also the rapid expansion of an illegal “drug” export biz for career criminals to get involved in hurriedly could have resulted in more blundering first-timers getting caught on arrival in Oklabraska. NBD no big deal.

  11. Tacking things on to my previous posts in this thread, here is an insightful article from about the UN being urged to get the hell out of the way of cannabis legalization. Too many dumb-ass prohibitionists know damn well the truth about cannabis but just get a power trip high off of busting people and ruining people’s lives just for the sake of the New Jim Crow. I want the UN out of the way. I want cannabis removed from international prohibitionist treaties. That done, I want cannabis banking and the IRS to get the hell off our backs. I want anyone the university and pharmaceutical researches want to be able to supply the cannabis, not just Ole Miss or whomever the DEA wants. I want the DEA out of the scene, meaning eliminate the DEA from the approval process for research on anything cannabis. In fact, there are so many leftover prohibitionists in the government that no government agency should be allowed a say in the approval process for research. The FDA can approve or deny pharmaceutical drugs developed from the research, BUT they can’t prohibition the whole plant or what people can make out of the vegetable matter.

    Barry, I hope word is getting through to you to get the UN to facilitate cannabis legalization. How many times have cannabists such as your uttered statements that if they were in a position to legalize that they would. Well, you’re in that position.

    1. The international conversation is more or less subjective to USAID, which has always manipulated the conversation on foreign policy, including drugs. I ser UNGASS as not only a platform for doctors to discuss the science but for policy makers to start doing their job and preparing for the inevitable this November, when majority rules medical marijuana.

      I mean, all that people like Kevin Sabet or even wealty launderers like Sheldon Addleson or Debbie Wasserman Shultz can do at this point is cone up with “look, BIRD!” Distractions in vain attempts to slow legalization down.

      And with money pouring in for every selfish reason in the book, I believe the editor is right; I don’t see how legalization can be stopped any longer; only regulated.

      1. Even in the worst case post-Apocalyptic scenario where Trump wins the presidency and Congress stays Republican, he’ll probably nominate his more liberal sister to the Supreme Court and the CSAct would blow up anyway!
        But since California IS voting to legalize, God willing we convince everyone we know there to vote, I think it still gives Sanders a snow-balls’ chance in California… And perhaps the Senate back to blue.

    2. What did they mean all this time by “Drug Enforcement”? Need to get REAL Riefer Enforcement Administration Legalization.

  12. He has that authority already. Well, what the hell is he waiting for to use it?! Get your ass in gear, and get the UN out of the way of legalization. So many politicians, including those in my home state of Pennsylvania, use the excuse not to legalize because it’s against federal law for which it is illegal because cannabis is illegal because of international law/treaties.

    Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana legislation, pretty close to shit, is back in the state’s Senate, where the cannabis community wants it expanded but Leach and others are saying that’ll kill it and just to get it passed and to tweak it later.

    Read all about it here:

    Plans in the works for New Jersey to expand its medical marijuana law to the size of Chris Christie’s waste:

  13. I want cannabis removed from the prohibitionist schedule(s) altogether, at the state level, at the federal level, and at the international level. These international treaties prohibiting cannabis have been excuses for far too long.

    Kevin Sabet, scoff, people like him aren’t making any private sector jobs for people in the cannabis sector, just propping up the new Jim Crow and the jobs in criminal justice and forced drug treatment. If you have seen the Weediquette series, the last one on how Jim Crow is alive and well in Louisiana about the case of Bernard Noble ought to just make you sick, turn your stomach.

    I love Weediquette! Sad about Ms. Hoover’s passing. I am looking forward to more potumentaries on Oregon and Washington state.

    In fact, I am hoping for a potumentary that is basically a How To Structure Legalization in Your State for both the public and the politicians in states that haven’t legalized, yet. Here are the pitfalls to avoid. Create your infrastructure this way. Sell medical and adult recreational out of the same shops, medical with no or drastically less tax, blah, blah, blah.

  14. And seeds, don’t even get me started on seeds! Viable cannabis seeds need to be legalized, and need to be allowed to be sold to the adult retail public. Period!

  15. Amazing how propaganda lies can persist for so many years when imbedded in people’s brains, no matter how much harm it causes.

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