Colorado residents are first to ask feds to block legal pot
DENVER — Colorado already is being sued by two neighboring states for legalizing marijuana. Now, the state faces groundbreaking lawsuits from its own residents, who are asking a federal judge to order the new recreational industry to close.
The lawsuits are the first in any state that has legalized recreational or medical marijuana in which its own residents are appealing to the federal government to block pot laws.
Lawyers say the racketeering approach is a new one.
“Colorado has every right to stop punishing adults for using marijuana,” said Mason Tvert, who ran Colorado’s legalization campaign and joined about a dozen other legalization supporters who marched to the state Capitol on Thursday for the lawsuits’ announcement. They carried signs saying, “Regulation Works!”
One legalization backer, Democratic state Rep. Jonathan Singer, said the pot industry has boosted tax coffers and hurt the black market.
“The sky hasn’t fallen. We’re doing the right thing,” Singer said.
Technically, federal law making pot illegal for any purpose remains in effect in the 23 states that have authorized its use for people with certain medical conditions. However, it’s not clear how far the federal government can go to compel states to enforce drug laws.
For nearly 20 years, the U.S. Department of Justice has repeatedly said that marijuana remains illegal and that the federal government can enforce even small-possession crimes. However, U.S. authorities have left most enforcement to the states, saying they focus on larger drug crimes.
Also suing is the owner of a Holiday Inn, who argues that a pot shop opening nearby is keeping away families.
“Marijuana businesses make bad neighbors,” the lawsuit says. “They drive away legitimate businesses’ customers, emit pungent, foul odors, attract undesirable visitors, increase criminal activity, increase traffic, and reduce property values.”
Nebraska and Oklahoma also are suing Colorado for legalizing marijuana in 2012. In that case, Colorado has until March 27 to respond to the arguments from the two states.
It has 21 days to reply to the new suits, which are sponsored by the Safe Streets Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based group that opposes marijuana legalization.
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