Many on the conservative side of the political spectrum have some serious concerns about the new head of the Dept. of Justice, Loretta Lynch. Soon the Libertarians and the Obama administration itself may have some concerns as well. In a just released CNN report;
The Supreme Court is prodding the Justice Department to weigh in — for the first time under Attorney General Loretta Lynch — on the delicate legal issue of how to treat states that have legalized marijuana in the face of a federal ban.
It is a subject the Obama administration has handled gingerly, most recently in 2013, when the department, then led by Attorney General Eric Holder, said it wouldn’t challenge the states with legal marijuana as long as they established strict regulatory schemes.
Now states that border “legalized marijuana” states have called upon the Supreme Court to review such “regulatory schemes” and the court has requested to hear the solicitor general’s views on the issue before deciding to take on the case. Considering the strong stance on marijuana legalization that Lynch took during confirmation, her views could ruffle some feathers.
“I can tell you that not only do I not support the legalization of marijuana, it is not the position of the Department of Justice currently to support the legalization,” she said. “Nor will it be the position, should I be confirmed as attorney general.”
Opponents of legalization don’t necessarily expect AG Lynch to do a complete refutation of the administrations “soft” position on legalization, but hope that she will do more in regards to investigating the consequences and effects on neighboring states.
“What we learned from the confirmation hearing is that she is uncomfortable with the idea of the marijuana industry being similar to legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco,” said Kevin Sabet, the co-founder of Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana).
Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, now working under AG Lynch, has months to prepare the administration’s response to the case before the court. Some speculate that he could choose to devote the bulk of his brief arguing that the case is not properly before the court. In fact, the states are asking the court to weigh in directly on the issue, rather than follow the normal procedure of allowing the issue to work its way through the lower courts.
Legal experts have stated that the fact that the court chose to ask for the administration’s views, instead of dismissing the case out of hand, could suggest some level of interest.
“Although the justices don’t always listen to the solicitor general’s recommendation, the fact that they’ve even asked for it in this case is telling, all the more so because this kind of multistate dispute is typically one in which the federal government has little direct interest or involvement,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a professor of law at American University Washington College of Law and a CNN analyst.
“This kind of not-in-my-backyard legal argument, if successful, could be deployed against any other states seeking to follow Colorado’s example — and could therefore impose a massive obstacle to legalization at anything short of the federal level,” Vladeck said.
Attorneys general in Nebraska and Oklahoma claim their states have become a “gateway for the trafficking of illegal Colorado-sourced marijuana.” The neighbor states are not targeting Colorado’s “right” to legalize marijuana, but instead, how it regulates the market for it. Besides Colorado, marijuana is now legal for recreational use in Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia.
The court is not expected to act on the issue until next term.