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Former DEA leaders bash Colorado pot law

You don't rise to the top of the Drug Enforcement Administration by being soft on marijuana. So it's not surprising, then, that all nine former administrators of the DEA are opposed to the legalization of marijuana in Colorado.

The former administrators have been vocal in their opposition to Colorado's law for years now. On Thursday, they added their support to a lawsuit from two neighboring states asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the law.

The former DEA administrators filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to consider the case and end marijuana's legalized status in Colorado. The state's law "not only is causing great harm to neighboring states, but is in direct conflict with federal law," said Robert Bonner, DEA administrator under the administrations of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

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The Supreme Court has not announced whether it will hear the lawsuit, which was filed in December by Nebraska and Oklahoma. The neighboring states want to overturn the law, saying that marijuana coming in from Colorado is taking a toll on their criminal justice systems and increasing costs related to arrests, vehicle impounds and drug seizures.

Colorado voters decided in 2012 to legalize marijuana use for anyone over age 21. The lawsuit claims that Colorado didn't have the right to pass a law that conflicted with federal drug law. Marijuana is illegal under federal law and is still classified as a so-called Schedule One drug, meaning that it's one of the most dangerous drugs in existence.

The Supreme Court is giving Colorado until March 27 to file its response to the lawsuit. Carolyn Tyler, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Attorney General's office, said her office is reviewing the DEA administrators' brief and will respond to it when filing its own brief to the Supreme Court.

In their filing to the Supreme Court, the DEA administrators make the following arguments:

  • It's against federal law to dispense or possess marijuana
  • Marijuana sold in Colorado does not stay in Colorado
  • Colorado's marijuana law is forcing Nebraska and Oklahoma to pump more money into law enforcement and criminal justice
  • The Supreme Court is the only court with jurisdiction to hear the case

The DEA administrators were also critical of the Obama administration, which has relaxed its stance on enforcing federal marijuana laws in Colorado. "The current administration's decision to turn a blind eye toward Colorado's rampant violation of federal law does not make that violation any less onerous or actionable," they write in their brief.

The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment on the brief.