The attorneys general of Nebraska and Oklahoma have sued Colorado in the US Supreme Court, arguing state-legalized marijuana from Colorado is improperly spilling across state lines.
The suit invokes the federal government's right to regulate both drugs and interstate commerce, and says Colorado's decision to legalize marijuana has been "particularly burdensome" to police agencies on the other side of the state line.
In June, USA TODAY highlighted the flow of marijuana from Colorado into small towns across Nebraska: felony drug arrests in Chappell,Nebraska, just 7 miles north of the Colorado border have skyrocketed 400 per cent in three years.
"In passing and enforcing Amendment 64, the state of Colorado has created a dangerous gap in the federal drug control system enacted by the United States Congress. Marijuana flows from this gap into neighboring states, undermining plaintiff states' own marijuana bans, draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems," says the lawsuit. "The Constitution and the federal anti-drug laws do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local pro-drug policies and licensed distribution schemes throughout the country which conflict with federal laws."
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said the lawsuit makes a distinction between legalized marijuana and the extensive commercialization permitted by Colorado.
"What we take issue with is this licensing scheme, this commercialization, that the state has promoted at the expense of Oklahoma and Nebraska," Pruitt said. "This is not just simply that Colorado has legalized the use and possession ... there are illegal products that are being trafficked across state lines. Clearly we've been injured."
In a statement, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said he wasn't "entirely surprised" by the lawsuit, but said Nebraska and Oklahoma are attacking the wrong people.
Drug addiction, overdoses, and a very brief history of Heroin
Drug addiction, overdoses, and a very brief history of Heroin
1/14 Heroin – the chemical name for which is diacetylmorphine – was originally synthesized by British chemist C.R.Alder Wright (pictured overleaf) in 1874, by adding two acetyl groups to the molecule morphine, which is naturally found in the opium poppy.
2/14 Bayer, the German pharmaceutical company behind Alka-Seltzer and Aspirin, bought the rights to diacetylmorphine, marketing it under the name “Heroin” in 1895 because early testers said that it made them feel “heroisch” or “heroic”.
3/14 By 1898, it was ready for mass marketing. It was originally sold as an over-the-counter cough suppressant that didn’t have problematic side effects, like addiction (the irony) - while alternative treatments morphine and codeine did. This was before they realised that, when taken into the body, it actually converts into morphine, and is ferociously addictive. Thus defeating the object and defining what was to become a historically embarrassing moment for the company in later years.
4/14 By 1899 Bayer was producing a ton of Heroin and exporting the drug to 23 countries, while free samples sent to doctors and studies appeared in medical journals. It was also around this time that early reports of addiction began to surface. The company wisely released Aspirin this year, which would go on to become one of the most popular and widely used pain relief drugs in the world.
5/14 US medicines containing heroin were available over the counter from 1907, after the American Medical Association gave it its stamp of approval.
6/14 As Heroin dependency became a torrent and overdoses began to be reported, Heroin was made illegal to obtain without a prescription from a doctor in the US in 1914. Bayer lost some of its trademark rights to Heroin and Aspirin under the Treaty Of Versailles in 1919, after the German defeat in World War I.
7/14 In the early 1920s, a number of addicted users in New York supported themselves by collecting and selling scrap metal retrieved from industrial dumps. It was from this that the label “junkies” was born. The behavior of Heroin addicts was soon, however, to cause a concern to the public and the authorities. In 1924, it became completely illegal, and doctors were told they could no longer prescribe the drug.
8/14 By this point, Heroin had become popular among creative industries. Pictured left is famed actress Jeanne Eagels, who died of a Heroin overdose in 1929. Its outlawed use had pushed manufacturers underground, and the purity of the product illegal traders now used varied in quality.
9/14 In the UK, the Rolleston Committee Report in 1926, illegal Heroin dealers were prosecuted, but doctors could prescribe diacetylmorphine to users when they were withdrawing from it, if it would cause harm or severe distress to the patient to go without it. This would be the law until 1959 when the number of diacetylmorphine addicts doubled every 16 months between 1959 and 1968.
10/14 The Brain Committee recommended that only selected, specially approved doctors at specialized centres were allowed to prescribe diacetylmorphine to users in 1964. The law was further restricted in 1968, and by the 1970s, the emphasis shifted to encouraging abstinence and the use of substitute methadone.
11/14 In the 1980s, the UK experienced a surge in Heroin supply because of a sudden cheap influx from Pakistan (the main supplier had been – and is now – Afghanistan). Cues from popular culture – and a social downtown caused by the economic and industrial crisis in the late 1970s – created the perfect environment for the Trainspotting generation.
12/14 In the 1990s, Heroin use was again popularized by the rise of grunge and Britpop, while the emergence of ‘the waif’ in fashion, of which Kate Moss is often cited as the originator, would give rise to the term ‘Heroin chic’. In 1994, the Swiss began to trial a diamorphine maintenance program for users who had failed multiple withdrawal programs. It aimed to maintain the health of the user, by discouraging the use of illicit street Heroin. It was deemed a success.
Kate Moss and Johnny Depp, together in 1994
13/14 Today, the largest producer of opium, needed to create Heroin is Afghanistan. This is closely followed by Mexico, who increased their rate of production sixfold between 2007 and 2011. Diacetylmorphine is a controlled, Class A substance in the UK, but continues to be used in palliative care for the treatment of acute pain, such as in severe physical trauma, post-surgical and chronic pain, as well as relieving sufferers of terminal illnesses.
14/14 Key figures continue to campaign for greater sympathies and better treatment of Heroin addicts as they attempt to rehabilitate themselves and re-enter society. Russell Brand’s Give it Up Fund, run in conjunction with Comic Relief, aims to provide financial aid to help people remain free from substance abuse by setting up support groups. "It's integral that people entering a life of abstinence after the chaos of addiction have stability, support and a role to play in the wider community," he said.
"Because neighboring states have expressed concern about Colorado-grown marijuana coming into their states, we are not entirely surprised by this action," said Suthers. "However, it appears the plaintiffs' primary grievance stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado. We believe this suit is without merit and we will vigorously defend against it in the US Supreme Court."
Lawsuits filed by the states directly with the Supreme Court are rare, and Pruitt said there's no way to know how quickly the court may respond.
On 1 January, Colorado legalized the recreational sale of marijuana to adults, regardless of where they live. And while the law prohibits people from taking that pot outside Colorado, some police officers in bordering states say they've seen an increase in marijuana flowing across the borders.
"Is it all coming from Colorado? Hell no. It's coming from all over. But I can tell you our numbers are double what they were last year," BJ Wilkinson, the police chief in Sidney, Nebraska, said in June. "Twice as often now, when we walk up to a car, we can smell burned marijuana."
The federally funded Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area team says it has documented a 13,000 per cent increase in marijuana seizures in its four-state operating area from 2005 to 2012. Those statistics were gathered before recreational sales of marijuana became legal in Colorado this year.
On Thursday, Deuel County, Nebraska, Sheriff Adam Hayward welcomed Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning's lawsuit. He said he hopes the federal government will act. Hayward for months has been asking his state's leaders to take a harder line against Colorado's marijuana marketplace.
He said while marijuana was always available in his area, it was never so widespread. He said minor traffic stops on the nearby interstate that used to take a few minutes to deal with now can take hours because so many people are illegally carrying marijuana out of Colorado.
"And now you're tying up two or three officers," Hayward said. "It's a diversion of resources."
He said harder drugs, like heroin and meth, have followed the increase in marijuana availability. Deuel County lies on Colorado's northeastern border.
"You know, they used to be drug dealers. But now they're legal and they're called businessmen," Hayward said. "But those businesspeople haven't given up their bad habits. They're selling marijuana out the front door, legal marijuana, and illegal drugs out the back door."
Legalization advocates said Colorado did the right thing by ending the war on drugs, and said marijuana was widely available and consumed in Nebraska and Oklahoma before Colorado legalized pot.
Colorado's marijuana system requires extensive background checks for growers and vendors, along with strict ongoing licensing and monitoring by police.
"Coloradans overwhelmingly voted in favor of legalizing marijuana. In so doing, we've chosen the licensed and regulated marijuana businesses over violent criminal organizations. Colorado has created a comprehensive and robust regulatory program for the sale of marijuana in Colorado," Mike Elliot of Colorado's Marijuana Industry Group said in a statement. "And the data is overwhelmingly showing that Colorado has enhanced public safety, the economy, and the freedom of its citizens. If Nebraska and Oklahoma succeed, they will put the violent criminal organizations back in charge."
Mason Tvert of the national Marijuana Policy Project was more blunt: "These guys are on the wrong side of history."
This story originally appeared on USA Today .The content was created separately by The Independent.