May 24, 2016 Articles

Litigation Update—Legal Recreational Marijuana

By Lauren P. Carboni

Two recent rulings, in federal cases challenging Colorado’s Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado, will have an important impact on future challenges to marijuana laws in Colorado and beyond. Nebraska v. Colorado, No. 144, Orig., 136 S. Ct. 1034 (2016), and Safe Streets Alliance v. Alternative Holistic Healing, LLC, No. 15-cv-00349, 2016 WL 1084372, at *1 (D. Colo. Mar. 21, 2016), both challenged Colorado’s Amendment 64 on the grounds that it violates federal drug law and that a state cannot authorize the violation of federal drug law. Further, the Safe Streets case addressed one of the first racketeering claims related to a legal marijuana facility since the introduction of legal marijuana in Colorado.

Overview of Marijuana Laws at the State and Federal Level
In 2012, Colorado voters adopted Amendment 64 to the state constitution to legalize, regulate, and facilitate the recreational use of marijuana. See Colo. Const., art. XVIII, § 16. Among other things, Amendment 64 exempted from Colorado’s criminal prohibitions certain uses of marijuana for persons 21 years of age or older. The Colorado Department of Revenue, Marijuana Enforcement Division, is responsible for regulating and enforcing the recreational marijuana industry.

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