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Frivolous Lawsuits Go Up in Smoke

The Kansas attorney general unintentionally proves that cannabis legalization is working



When Colorado legalized cannabis in 2012, government officials in the conservative neighboring states of Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma were not pleased. Police in those states claimed that they were overwhelmed with cannabis being trafficked from Colorado and went so far as to suggest that Colorado should pay for their increased law enforcement costs.

Around the same time, media outlets in Colorado began to document cases of drivers with Colorado license plates who said they were pulled over in these states for bogus reasons, such as going 1 mile per hour over the speed limit or weaving when they were not. To many Coloradans, anecdotal evidence suggested that police in neighboring states were intentionally and unnecessarily increasing their efforts to catch cannabis users due to their political opposition.

In 2014, the states of Nebraska and Oklahoma sued Colorado, arguing that Colorado had caused "substantial and irreparable harm" to their states due to "the increased costs for the apprehension, incarceration, and prosecution" of cannabis users. According to the states, their choice to engage in this police activity has caused "the diversion of a significant amount of the personnel time, budget and resources" of police.

In December 2015, the Supreme Court threw out the lawsuit. And this month, the Kansas attorney general released a report detailing the "impacts" of Colorado's legalization law on Kansas. The report relies on surveys of prosecutors and police, rather than actual data on arrests and prosecutions—so it lacks the basic methodological rigor necessary to draw valid conclusions. But even the self-reports of notoriously pro-prohibition government attorneys and police could not produce the results that the Kansas AG was searching for.

The report shows a decline in cannabis seizures in Kansas between 2013 and 2015. The report also shows there has been no significant increase in DUI arrests in Kansas. And most significantly, "(m)any prosecutors reported that the effect of Colorado marijuana legalization was minimal to nonexistent in their jurisdiction."

The report concludes that "the major effect of Colorado marijuana legalization appears to be that high grade marijuana from Colorado has replaced lower grade marijuana from Mexico and home grown marijuana."

In other words, Kansas has apparently experienced none of the detrimental effects of Colorado's legalization claimed in the federal lawsuit. And even Kansans are choosing to buy legal cannabis from Colorado businesses rather than from Mexican cartels. Of course, that means that legalization is working.

As the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once famously said, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts." Perhaps now Coloradans will ask for reimbursement for the costs of defending a frivolous lawsuit.

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