More Fun with Prosecutorial Discretion

By Sam Ventola,

  Filed under: Constitutional
  Comments: None

More Fun with Prosecutorial Discretion – Oklahoma and Nebraska sue Colorado over Marijuana.

1904_tug_of_warIn our last entry, we explored the issue of “prosecutorial discretion,” particularly as it involved President Obama’s executive amnesty for certain illegal immigrants. With today’s news comes another story created by the Obama Administration’s decision not to enforce some parts of the federal law.

Today the States of Oklahoma and Nebraska filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Supreme Court challenging Colorado’s legalization of marijuana. The States contend that Colorado’s program violates federal policy which makes marijuana strictly illegal, and that federal policy in the field must be considered supreme.

The curious part is, the federal government – or at least the current administration – apparently does not consider marijuana regulation to be so important, because it has so much as announced that it will refrain from enforcing federal marijuana laws in States such as Colorado that have legalized it. The lawsuit essentially contends that Colorado must prohibit marijuana sales in Colorado even where the federal government has declined to do so. As stated by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, “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.”

Indeed, the States suing Colorado include as support of their claim the fact that the U.S. has signed international treaties requiring that marijuana be illegal under U.S. law. But again, it would seem to be the obligation of the federal government to comply with those treaties, rather than the Colorado government.

Because it is a lawsuit between States, this case was originally filed in the Supreme Court, so we may have a final ruling on this issue much sooner than in most cases. Watch this space for further developments.


Sam Ventola has a wide variety of experience in litigation, legal education, and mediation. He has been an attorney on both sides in business litigation, employment disputes, probate litigation, and personal injury cases. In addition to being an attorney, he has been a mediator, hearing officer, labor relations professor, and lecturer on litigation, employment and First Amendment issues. He has also achieved the rating of AV Preeminent® by Martindale Hubbell.

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