OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The state of Oklahoma will receive $8.75 million from two pharmaceutical companies in a deal announced Friday that will end legal action the state was considering against the opioid manufacturers.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter announced the agreement with Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Par Pharmaceutical, Inc., both subsidiaries of Dublin-based Endo International. Without the agreement, Hunter said he planned to file suit against the company alleging it violated state law by deceptively marketing opioid pain medications in a way that understated the risk of addiction.
The Supreme Court’s decision today to toss out a lawsuit that could have brought Colorado’s legal marijuana boom to a screeching halt hasn’t deterred opponents of the national legalization effort.
Already, the plaintiffs and their supporters are looking to regroup. “The Court’s decision does not bar additional challenges to Colorado’s scheme in federal district court,” said Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson in a statement.
Oklahoma and Nebraska asked the Supreme Court to hear a challenge to Colorado’s marijuana legalization framework, saying that the state’s legalization regime was causing marijuana to flow across the borders into their own states, creating law enforcement headaches.
But by a 6-2 majority, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, without comment.
In a statement, Peterson’s office said it would work with Oklahoma and other states “to determine the best next steps toward vindicating the rule of law.”
Other opponents are remaining optimistic, as well. “It’s obviously a disappointment,” said Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana in an email. “But we think legalization will be defeated on its own policy merits,” he added.
They’re facing an increasingly steep uphill battle.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued that since marijuana is illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), it can’t be regulated at the state level. But numerous legal experts have pointed out that assumption is incorrect.
“Congress has no power to compel states to prohibit the cultivation, possession and transfer of marijuana,” according to Randy Barnett, an attorney who litigated a Supreme Court case exploring the limits of the CSA. “In the absence of such state prohibition, all such activities are completely legal under state law, notwithstanding that they are illegal under federal law,” he wrote last year.
In short, Congress can say that marijuana is illegal at the federal level. But if a state doesn’t want to enforce that prohibition itself, it doesn’t have to do so. And if it wants to go one step further and set up a market to regulate the trade in the drug, it’s free to do that as well.
“This is the result that most of us were expecting,” legal professor Sam Kamin, who was part of the task force implementing Colorado’s marijuana laws, said in an email. “This never seemed like the right case to test the power of the states to tax and regulate marijuana (everyone seems to agree that they have the right to legalize marijuana).”
The U.S. Justice Department filed a brief last December urging the Supreme Court to throw the lawsuit out. “With the federal government uninterested in bringing such a suit at the moment, this seems to take things out of the courts and into the political process for the near term,” Kamen said.
Legalization advocates say that while the decision likely won’t have any big practical effects in the near-term, it does send a signal to other states mulling their own marijuana policy in the coming years. “The Supreme Court’s rejection of this misguided effort to undo cautious and effective state-level regulation of marijuana is excellent news for the many other states looking to adopt similar reforms in 2016 and beyond,” said Tamar Todd, director of the office of legal affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, in a statement.
Observers on both sides of the issue point out that the court’s majority did not issue any explanation of their dismissal, which is standard practice in cases like this. The justices may have objected to the lawsuit on its merits, or they may have simply felt that it wasn’t proper for them to take up the case at this time, preferring instead to let the state-level legalization experiments play out.
“Of course, everything may change with a new administration in 2017,” law professor Sam Kamin said in an email. “But with marijuana on the ballot in another big handful of states this fall, the genie may be out of the bottle by the time the next president is sworn into office.”
A former lottery security director convicted of rigging a multistate Hot Lotto game in a failed effort to claim a $16.5 million jackpot in Iowa also is under investigation on allegations of fixing games involving winning lottery tickets in Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Colorado.
An Iowa assistant attorney general revealed convicted lottery scammer Eddie Tipton’s Oklahoma connection in an Iowa court hearing Thursday but said details of the allegation were contained in sealed court documents, and he could not discuss them, The Associated Press reported.
Rollo Redburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Lottery Commission, confirmed Friday that Oklahoma lottery authorities have been assisting the Iowa attorney general’s office and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations with their ongoing criminal investigation.
Information forwarded to Iowa authorities included evidence relating to a winning Hot Lotto ticket purchased Nov. 21, 2011, in Idabel, Redburn said.
The Oklahoma winning jackpot had a value of $1.2 million if paid out over time through an annuity and an immediate cash value of $907,715, Redburn said. The winner chose to take the immediate cash, minus taxes that were withheld. The drawing was on Nov. 23, 2011, and the money was paid out on Dec. 21, 2011, Redburn said.
Redburn declined to say what connections the purchaser of the ticket may have had to Tipton, saying it was part of a continuing investigation.
Aaron Cooper, spokesman for Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, said attorneys in Pruitt’s office are aware of the alleged Oklahoma ties to Tipton’s criminal activity and are in communication with the Iowa attorney general’s office as its investigation and prosecution continue to unfold.
“The Oklahoma attorney general’s office will continue to closely monitor the situation to determine any steps that would be necessary to address any unlawful activity that may have occurred within this state,” Cooper said.
Tipton, 52 of Flatonia, Texas, was convicted of fraud in July by a jury in Des Moines, Iowa, for rigging a 2010 Iowa Hot Lotto game that carried a $16.5 million jackpot. He received a 10-year sentence, which he is appealing, The Associated Press reported.
Authorities became suspicious when the prize initially went unclaimed for almost a year and then efforts were made to hide the identity of the winner, something that is not permissible under Iowa law.
Tipton was an information technology security worker at the Multi-State Lottery Association, an Iowa-based lottery security agency that provides the computers used to randomly generate numbers for lottery drawings in several states. In 2013, he became the information security director.
It was part of Tipton’s job to help build the random number generators sent out to various states, The Associated Press reported.
In the Iowa case, prosecutors accused Tipton of using stealth software to rig the numbers for the December 2010 Hot Lotto drawing. Prosecutors alleged Tipton then bought a ticket with the winning numbers he had built into the system, even though Iowa rules prohibited him from playing since he was an employee of a lottery vendor.
Tipton also is suspected of rigging a November 2005 lottery in Colorado and a 2007 lottery in Wisconsin.
Tipton’s brother, Tommy Tipton, submitted a claim for the winning ticket with the help of a friend in the Colorado lottery, an investigator said in a sworn statement.
That lottery had a $4.5 million jackpot, and Tommy Tipton took a lump sum payment of $568,990 for his share of the jackpot. He paid his friend about 10 percent for claiming the winnings on his behalf, the investigator said.
In the Wisconsin Megabucks lottery case, Eddie Tipton’s close friend Robert Rhodes of Houston, Texas, used a limited liability company to submit a winning ticket claim, the investigator said.
The limited liability company was given a lump sum payment of $783,257.72 for the winning ticket. The jackpot at the time was $2 million, authorities said.
Redburn said Oklahoma lottery officials do everything possible to keep games honest, and there is no way to go back and make things right for people who may have been cheated out of an honest game four years ago.
“There’s nothing you can do about it now,” he said.
“You can’t protect against bad people,” he said. “We’ve always got to be diligent about the possibility of fraud. What this has done, I think, is open the eyes of a lot of people to try to tighten things up a bit.”
“I’d say right now the games are probably as protected as they can get,” Redburn said. “If you asked me, I’d say that the games are safe. Play and the numbers are going to be picked appropriately, and you’re going to win or you’re not going to win based on fat chance.”