Colo. Pot Law Makes Us Violate Constitution: Sheriffs' Suit

Officials say legalization forces them into 'crisis of conscience'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 5, 2015 12:05 PM CST
In this April 19, 2014, file photo, partygoers dance to live music and smoke pot on the first of two days at the annual 4/20 marijuana festival in Denver.   (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, file)

(Newser) – While Colorado citizens are taking advantage of their state's marijuana legalization, sheriffs there and in neighboring states are suffering a "crisis of conscience" in upholding that law, according to a suit filed against Colorado today in Denver. Per USA Today, the lead plaintiff, Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith, calls the case a "constitutional showdown" and says he doesn't know whether to enforce his own state's mandate or the US Constitution (pot's still not legal on a federal level). "[They're] asking every peace officer to violate their oath," Smith says, per USA Today. "What we're being forced to do … makes me ineligible for office." Meanwhile, sheriffs in Kansas and Nebraska who've joined the suit complain that tokers driving back from Colorado are running up overtime bills as police have to handle a significant increase in drug arrests.

This isn't the first group to take legal measures against the state. The attorneys general in Nebraska and Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against Colorado last year, saying the free flow of pot across state lines is hurting communities. "Left unchallenged, I am confident Colorado's law will cause long-term harm to Nebraska families," that state's AG, Doug Peterson, wrote in an open letter, as per the LA Times. And two lawsuits filed last month by an anti-drug group express similar complaints and add racketeering charges into the mix, the Huffington Post noted in February. Larimer County's sheriff says the DoJ's mostly hands-off policy in dealing with the new rules amounts to showing folks "how to violate federal law but not get prosecuted," USA Today notes. But a pot advocate says pols and cops should concentrate on more serious crimes. "These guys are on the wrong side of history," he tells the paper.

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