Case Involving One State Suing Another State, SCOTUS Has Exclusive Jurisdiction

Marijuana SCOTUS Case May Yield Surprises – The most controversial member of the Supreme Court, Justice Anton Scalia, died earlier this month. His death sent shockwaves through American politics. The media is fixated on the lack of common ground between the Senate and the President over who should replace him, or when his replacement should be named.

Almost all supreme court nominees are accepted or rejected by the Senate within 100 days, but rarely in less than 50 days in recent decades. This history means that even if the Senate were to hold hearings on President Obama’s candidate, they would most likely not join the court until sometime this summer. Almost all cases currently on the SCOTUS’s schedule will already delivered oral arguments, and many of them will already be decided.

One of the most interesting cases coming up this year is between Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Colorado. They are suing Colorado over marijuana legalization. They claim that Colorado’s marijuana legalization has caused an increase in criminal activities across the border, causing harm in their communities and costing them extra money in law enforcement. The harm they are suing over is, of course, people smoking marijuana.

Because this case involves one state suing another state, SCOTUS has exclusive jurisdiction. That means that no state court, or even a regional federal court, has the constitutional power to resolve the conflict between the states. Even though SCOTUS is the only court that could hear the case, they could still refuse. A refusal would allow the Colorado law to stand untouched.

If they do take the case, a simple majority of justices could decide to crush Colorado’s legalization amendment. A tie vote would become more complicated; ordinarily a tie vote upholds the ruling of the next highest court that already decided the case, usually the Court of Appeals. Since there is no lower court decision in this case, a tie vote would mean that no one wins, and the marijuana law remains.

There is no way of knowing exactly how Justice Scalia would have decided the case. As consistently conservative and originalist as he was, his views were very nuanced.

He most likely would not have liked that one state was trying to control the laws of another, nor that the law they seek to crush was approved by

He most likely would not have liked that one state was trying to control the laws of another, nor that the law they seek to crush was approved by 55% of the state’s voters. These suggest he might have voted to protect Colorado’s law.

However, he agreed with the majority in Gonzales v. Raich, holding that Federal law supersedes state law. This decision allowed the DEA to continue to raid and prosecute medical marijuana patients in California, even if they were 100% compliant with state law.

This case could be nothing, or it could be huge. Only time and the opinions of eight learned jurists will tell.

We’ll be watching this case carefully and keep you up to date on any developments.