Four lawsuits seek to upend Colorado’s recreational marijuana industry

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Photo: student smoking marijuana

Friday is the deadline for Colorado's Attorney General to respond to a complaint filed in the U.S. Supreme Court by Oklahoma and Nebraska. It challenges Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana and is one of four lawsuits that aim to dismantle the young industry.

The other legal challenges have been filed in federal district court. Two come from an anti-crime group called Safe Streets Alliance; the other is from a group of prosecutors and sheriffs from several states, including Colorado. Safe Streets Alliance is working on its two suits with two Colorado citizens and one business.

The sheriffs and prosecutors case seek to re-criminalize possession of recreational marijuana use. The others target the industry and the regulatory structure that supports it.

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman says she will defend the state in each case.

For analysis of the strength and implications of each case, Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner talks with Sam Kamin, who teaches criminal and constitutional law at the University of Denver. Audio from that conversation will be available after noon.

Here's more information on the lawsuits challenging Colorado's recreational marijuana industry:

States of Nebraska and Oklahoma v. State of Colorado

The complaint argues that the federal government has preeminent authority to govern interstate commerce, and "a state may not establish its own policy that is directly counter to federal policy against trafficking in con-trolled substances or establish a state-sanctioned system for possession, production, licensing, and distribution of drugs in a manner which interferes with the federal drug laws that prohibit possession,use, manufacture, cultivation, and/or distribution of certain drugs, including marijuana."

The U.S. Supreme Court has not accepted or rejected the case.

Safe Street Alliance, Phillis Windy Hope Reilly and Michael P. Reilly v. Alternative Holistic Healing, Gov. John Hickenlooper and others

Plaintiffs seek damages and an injunction against a marijuana business, Alternative Holistic Healing, that it says plans to open a production operation near the Reilly's property in Pueblo County. The lawsuit alleges the business and other parties in Colorado have engaged in racketeering, or organized crime.

Safe Street Alliance and New Vision Hotels Two v. Medical Marijuana of the Rockies and others

Plaintiffs seek damages and an injunction against a marijuana business, Medical Marijuana of the Rockies, that it says plans to open a cultivation facility and store near a Holiday Inn owned by New Vision Hotels in Frisco. The lawsuit alleges the business and other parties in Colorado have engaged in racketeering or organized crime.

Sheriffs and prosecutors v. Gov. John Hickenlooper

Plaintiffs include six Colorado sheriffs and argues that "the federal government has preeminent authority to regulate interstate and foreign commerce, including commerce involving legal and illegal trafficking in drugs, such as marijuana."

The Colorado sheriffs are from Larimer, Yuma, Elbert, Hinsdale, Kiowa, and Delta counties. They argue that they have a duty to uphold both the U.S. and Colorado constitutions, and that marijuana legalization means they must violate one of those constitutional requirements.