One of the biggest problems with marijuana legalization is the disparities between the new state laws and existing federal statutes. The predicament has spurred lawsuits between states, including the recent ones filed by Oklahoma and Nebraska against Colorado, complaining that our laws undoing marijuana prohibition is creating a “nuisance” for their law enforcement officers.
These cases may finally be spurring the federal government toward providing much-needed clarity about marijuana policy. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court asked the feds to “weigh in” on the state suits before it decides whether to hear them.
The lawsuits are problematic for reasons other than their potential to reverse Colorado’s legalization initiative. They also could open the door—Hobby Lobby style—to other lawsuits between states that nettle each other for some reason, not exactly the utopia believers in federalism (i.e., conservatives) have envisioned.
The Obama administration has taken a generally positive attitude toward legalization, but it’s always stopped short of the Holy Grail: advocating for the reassignment of marijuana from its current Schedule 1 status. This places it alongside other far more toxic, addictive, and harmful drugs and is the primary reason for ongoing prohibition and cultural stigma.
It’s difficult to imagine President Obama going more draconian on federal weed policy; he’s no longer running for office, and such a decision would hurt Democrats and more libertarian conservatives next year. A full-voiced support for rescheduling is the pro-weed activists’ dream, even though a more conservative administration after the 2016 elections could reverse much of the progress we’ve made on legalization—some of them have even pledged to do just that.
Rescheduling would be an admittedly big step that might be difficult to advocate for when incidents such as these occasionally happen. As we wait to see what transpires, we can take solace in the fact that, one way or another, we might soon have real clarity on federal drug policy. Or so we hope.
Follow 5280 editor-at-large on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.