The U.S. Supreme Court has given Colorado an extra month to respond to a lawsuit that claims the state is polluting its neighbors with marijuana.
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Colorado had been due to file its response by Monday. The state now has until March 27 to file its response, according to a one-sentence order posted last Tuesday. No more details about the extension were available.
 
In what could be a history-making case, the states of Nebraska and Oklahoma have sued Colorado over marijuana legalization. The suit seeks to overturn Colorado's first-in-the-country regulations for recreational marijuana stores, arguing that the stores both violate federal law and have caused a flood of Colorado-grown marijuana into neighboring states. Nebraska and Oklahoma said their law enforcement budgets have been stretched thin trying to police the influx.
 
Because the lawsuit involves a dispute between states, it was filed directly to the Supreme Court, under what is known as the high court's "original jurisdiction".
 
When the lawsuit was filed late last year, Colorado attorney general John Suthers vowed to defend Colorado's law vigorously, arguing that Nebraska and Oklahoma's complaint "stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado." Suthers has since left office due to term limits. Newly elected Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has said she will also fight the lawsuit.
 
On Monday, a spokeswoman for Coffman said the attorney general's office requested the extension because it needs more time to study the complex legal issues involved.
 
"This is a routine practice when there are novel issues that require additional research," spokeswoman Carolyn Tyler said.
 
Unlike other lawsuits, the first step for Nebraska and Oklahoma's case is to get the Supreme Court to agree to hear it. After Colorado files its response, it is expected an attorney for the federal government will be given a chance to weigh in.
 
If the Supreme Court does agree to hear the case, it could take years to resolve.
 
John Ingold ~ The Denver Post ~ February 16, 2015
 
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