An ally in the fight for states rights to enact marijuana legislation has come from an unlikely place. A landmark Supreme Court decision is primed to have a major effect on marijuana rights throughout the country, but the content of the case is not cannabis: It’s sports gambling. The recent decision in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association opposed a federal law that prohibited states from legalizing gambling on sports. At the heart of the lawsuit is a states’ rights issue, one that will set a precedent far beyond betting on games.
The case began with Congress passing the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 1992, which made it illegal for states to allow sports gambling if they did not already have laws permitting the activity on the books, according to an article from The Hill. Years later, in 2011, New Jersey voters passed a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution and put in place sports gambling permissions and regulations, which sparked the lawsuit with NCAA and sports leagues. It was determined this was in violation of PASPA, so New Jersey legislators instead repealed the laws they had in place forbidding sports bets in casinos, hoping to create one legal avenue. Federal courts stuck down this action as well, which forced a Supreme Court decision on the matter. The Supreme Court, however, sided with New Jersey, stating that PAPSA violated anti-commandeering doctrine. Continue reading