U.S. Supreme Court Rules States Can Legalize Sports Gambling, Marijuana Advocates Breathe Sigh of Relief
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that the state of New Jersey has the legal authority to continue with its voter-approved law allowing sports gambling, striking down a federal ban implemented in 1992. The case has implications for state-level marijuana laws.
In a 6 to 3 vote the Supreme Court ruled this morning that the federal law prohibiting sports gambling violated constitutional principles limiting the federal government from controlling state policy, unconstitutionally forcing states to prohibit sports betting under their own laws. The case, Murphy V. NCAA, doesn’t directly impact marijuana laws, but could have had a detrimental impact if the court ruled the other way, and could have bolstered opponents of state-level marijuana laws, particularly federal lawmakers.
“The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make,” said Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority opinion. “Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own.”
“Today’s decision clears the way for all states to make their own decisions about legalizing sports betting, and in one fell swoop gets rid of Nevada’s monopoly on the subject and the 1992 federal statute that had protected it,” says Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law.
As noted by the Congressional Research Service, the Court ruling the opposite way could have had a negative impact on marijuana laws. “[T]he federal government may be able to regulate other areas like recreational marijuana… freezing existing state laws in place, instead of through direct federal regulation”, they state in a recent analysis.
Marijuana reformers are hoping to see – in the near future – the Supreme Court come to a similar conclusion on marijuana laws, allowing states to explicitly decide their own laws.