Six Colorado sheriffs sued their own governor in federal court on Thursday, arguing that state laws legalizing marijuana require them to violate federal law.
Joining the sheriffs in the lawsuit — the fourth to be filed against Colorado over marijuana legalization — are sheriffs and prosecutors from Nebraska and Kansas. The suit argues that federal law’s supremacy means Colorado cannot allow people to possess or use marijuana for recreational purposes and cannot license stores to sell it. The lawsuit does not challenge Colorado’s medical marijuana laws or stores.
“This suit is about one thing — the rule of law,” Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said in a news release. “The Colorado Constitution mandates that all elected officials, including sheriffs, swear an oath of office to uphold both the United States as well as the Colorado Constitutions.”
The suit names Gov. John Hickenlooper as the lone defendant. Colorado’s attorney general, Cynthia Coffman, will defend the state against the lawsuit, a spokeswoman for her said.
The lawsuit has the backing of national anti-legalization groups, and its nationwide ambitions were apparent in the choice of where to announce the suit. In a news conference Thursday morning at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Smith told reporters that Colorado’s passage of Amendment 64 created “a constitutional showdown” in the state. The amendment, which voters approved in 2012, made it legal for people over 21 in Colorado to possess limited amounts of marijuana and for licensed stores to sell marijuana.
“We think that what Colorado has done is illegal; we think it’s unconstitutional,” Scotts Bluff County, Neb., Sheriff Mark Overman, who is also a plaintiff in the suit, said at the news conference. “I believe, my fellow plaintiffs believe, that this case is going to have national ramifications. And, if we win, then we can reverse what looks like a surrender to the pro-marijuana crowd.”
The lawsuit follows another legal challenge filed in December by Nebraska and Oklahoma, which asked the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the history-making law. Two lawsuits filed earlier this year by the anti-legalization group Safe Streets Alliance on behalf of several Colorado residents are also pending against the state over Amendment 64.
Similar to the previous lawsuits, the new suit seeks to close all of Colorado’s recreational marijuana stores, but it also asks a federal judge to overturn Amendment 64?s protections for marijuana use and possession. The law enforcement officials’ suit claims that local officers are breaking federal law and international treaties when they find marijuana but don’t seize it.
At Thursday’s news conference, Yuma County Sheriff Chad Day said Colorado’s marijuana laws now prohibit officers from seizing marijuana in certain circumstances — putting officers, he said, in “an untenable position.”
– Read the entire article at The Denver Post.