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Colorado lawsuits piling up....


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Colorado is facing a barrage of lawsuits over its legalisation of marijuana


ONLY in America.

It’s hard not to shake your head and utter those words when year hear about the legal catastrophe that has descended upon the state of Colorado in the wake of marijuana legalisation.


Amid all the litigious chaos and vested interests, there are truly poignant storylines and some very big ramifications of the events currently unfolding in the US state.


It’s been a little over a year since Colorado became the first state in the US to legalise recreational marijuana and now pretty much everyone is suing each other. Civilians, police, governments, they’re all getting in on the action.


In a nutshell, crime is down, tax revenue has ballooned, tourism and pot dispensaries are booming and people are mostly happy. Unless you live outside of Colorado.


In December, neighbouring states Nebraska and Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against the government of Colorado in an effort to get the Supreme Court to strike down the history-making law. They say the debauchery is spilling over into their states, infringing upon their rights and putting stress on their judicial system.


Seizures of marijuana and related arrests have skyrocketed in neighbouring states. One Nebraskan town, 11 kilometres north of Colorado has seen a 400 per cent increase in felony charges related to the drug. On one side of the border, smoke to your heart’s content, on the other, five years imprisonment.


Colorado’s Attorney General has vowed to defend his state’s legalisation and surprisingly, he has the most unlikely of allies. Well, sort of.


In a beautiful twist of irony, some of Oklahoma’s most conservative Republicans (America’s more right-wing party who are staunchly anti-marijuana) have come out against the lawsuit.


They’re such big proponents of state rights they have no choice but to inadvertently protect Colorado’s marijuana laws. The ramifications if the lawsuit was successful could ultimately prove disastrous for their political ideology.


“If the people of Colorado want to end prohibition of marijuana, while I may personally disagree with the decision, constitutionally speaking, they are entitled to do so,” wrote republican Mike Ritze in a letter urging the plaintiffs to drop the lawsuit.


Also incensed by the “sticky-icky” flooding his state is the governor of Wyoming. However instead of suing Colorado, he has been thinking of taking his fight to the federal government.


“My position, if we could get there, wouldn’t be to sue the state of Colorado. It would be to sue the federal government,” he told local media.


But someone spare a thought for the poor Coloradan police force. They too have their tasers in a tizzy. And like any good American, they filed their own lawsuit. Against their employer.


Last week, six Colorado sheriffs as well as sheriffs and prosecutors from Nebraska and Kansas sued the governor of Colorado over the legalisation amendment.


In a country that idolises the Bill of Rights, they are simply too indignant about having to don their badge each day while turning a blind eye to federal law, which prohibits marijuana.


Speaking at a press conference, one of the plaintiffs in the case, Sheriff Mark Overman said “we think that what Colorado has done is illegal ... if we win, then we can reverse what looks like a surrender to the pro-marijuana crowd.”


If that wasn’t ridiculous enough, the suit from local law enforcement comes just weeks after ANOTHER legal complaint was filed. This one was lodged on behalf of two Coloradan citizens representing a group called the Safe Streets Alliance. Again, only in America.


The lawsuit names 11 defendants in the suit which basically takes aim at anybody involved in the burgeoning industry, claiming it has reduced property prices in the state.


“We bought our land in part for those spectacular views, but now they are marred by the marijuana enterprise at our doorstep,” said Hope Reilly, one of the plaintiffs of the case.


It will be some time before these lawsuits will be ruled on, if they even get that far. An article published this week in the Washington Post cast doubt over the likelihood that any of the lawsuits could succeed.


Randy Barnett, an attorney who litigated a Supreme Court case exploring the limits of the federal government’s Controlled Substances Act said in an interview, “Congress has no power to compel states to prohibit the cultivation, possession and transfer of marijuana.”


According to Robert Mikos of Vanderbilt University, even if the lawsuits were to be successful, it would be a very hollow victory. The reason is that the best plaintiffs could hope for is the removal of Colorado’s current legal regulations on the marijuana trade. Its legal status would remain, leaving it completely unregulated. It would be “a wild west scenario,” he said.


Despite all the rabble-rousing, for the time being, users can keep enjoying their purple haze and dispensary owners can keep counting their cash.


It might just be advisable to put some aside for a lawyer.




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