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U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Marijuana and Stun Gun Cases

May 16, 2016

The U.S. Supreme Court reviewed two cases in March 2016 — one involving Colorado’s legalized marijuana industry and the other a Massachusetts attempt to limit a person’s right to possess stun guns for self-defense — but refused to hear both. Neither the marijuana case nor the stun gun case resulted in unanimous decisions. In both cases, at least two justices opposed the majority opinion.

In the Colorado case, U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. encouraged the Supreme Court to refuse to hear the complaint out of Nebraska and Oklahoma. The court followed his counsel but gave no reason for their refusal in the matter. Nebraska and Oklahoma desperately desired to be heard on the matter as they pursued a lawsuit directly through the Supreme Court — an unusual procedure that is only allowed under very specific circumstances. The states cited interstate concerns to justify their deviation from the usual protocol.

The court declined to hear Nebraska and Oklahoma’s claim that Colorado’s multimillion dollar marijuana industry, while legal there, does not prevent third parties from engaging in unlawful activities stemming from Colorado’s marijuana enterprise and bringing crime to neighboring states. Two justices wanted to hear the complaint on the grounds that Nebraska and Oklahoma brought enough concern of potential harm to their states, so they felt the states’ reasons were valid.

The case of Caetano v. Massachusetts, No. 14-10078 in Massachusetts involved the attempt of the state to criminalize possession of stun guns for its citizens although most other states have approved the use of these devices as a reasonable form of self-defense. The Supreme Court rejected the case, possibly because the Massachusetts law, if upheld, would contradict the ruling in a 2008 Supreme Court case that allows citizens to keep arms for self-defense. The resulting rejection forces Massachusetts to revisit and revise their position on a citizen’s right to possess stun guns.

The marijuana case spoke to states’ rights to enact laws as they see fit, while the Massachusetts case addressed the hotly contested matter of gun ownership in the country. If need legal advice, contact us for seasoned counsel about your concerns.