A federal lawsuit has been filed by a group of cannabis advocates which challenges the constitutionality of marijuana’s Schedule 1 label under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the U.S. Department of Justice, Charles Rosenberg (the DEA’s acting administrator), the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, and the United States of America have all been named as defendants.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include former NFL player Marvin Washington, Iraq war veteran Jose Balen, also two fathers, Dean Bortell and Sebastien Cotte, whose children have serious illnesses and are currently using medical marijuana in their treatment, and the Cannabis Cultural Association, a nonprofit organization working for social justice and reform.
The Plaintiffs in this case are challenging the constitutionality of the drug’s current classification, calling it “irrational.” As it stands today, marijuana is designated a Schedule I substance by the CSA. This puts cannabis in the same classification as extremely dangerous drugs such as LSD and heroin, the latter taking lives daily.
The 89-page complaint was filed by attorney Michael S. Hiller in the Southern District of New York. Attorney Hiller makes several assertions, including a claim that the government has never believed that cannabis meets the requirements for a Schedule I classification.
Requirements for Schedule I:
(i) High potential for abuse.
(ii) Absolutely no medical use in treatment.
(iii) Cannot be used or tested safely, even under strict medical supervision
The lawsuit states, “Indeed, the Federal Government has admitted repeatedly in writing and implemented national policy reflecting that Cannabis does in fact, have medical uses and can be used and tested safely under medical supervision.” It states boldly that the “federal government has recognized that cannabis does not meet (or even come close to meeting) two of the three Schedule I requirements.”
The complaint goes on to say, “On that basis, the federal government has exploited cannabis economically for more than a decade by securing a medical cannabis patent and entering into license agreements with medical licensees.”
But they don’t stop there. The Plaintiffs go further to argue that the 1970 CSA classification of cannabis was implemented not to protect the public from a dangerous substance, but was a vehicle by which they could suppress the rights of African Americans and Vietnam War protesters through enforcement.
“The Nixon Administration ushered the CSA through Congress and insisted that cannabis be included on Schedule I so that African Americans and war protesters could be raided, prosecuted and incarcerated without identifying the actual and unconstitutional basis for the government’s actions.”
A win for the Plaintiffs in this case would be a declaration that the CSA is, in fact, unconstitutional in regards to marijuana. If successful, this declaration would not make current federal law null and void, but would put a permanent injunction in place against enforcement of the laws pertaining to marijuana.
Cannabis Cultural Association – A 501(c)3 nonprofit organization fighting to help marginalized and underrepresented communities engage in the legal cannabis industry, to reform the criminal justice system, to improve access to medical cannabis, and advocating for adult use legalization. This group is suing, claiming the CSA historically was used in a discriminatory manner to target persons of color. They further claim the CSA prevents the legal participation in the cannabis industry within these communities, causing them to be further restricted socioeconomically.
Marvin Washington – Residing in Dallas, Mr. Washington is a retired NFL player and longtime supporter of cannabis legalization. His complaint stems from the fact that under the current CSA, he is ineligible under the Federal Minority Business Enterprise program to obtain grants in order to start his own marijuana business.
Sebastien Cotte – Residing in Georgia, Sebastien is father to Jagger who, at 1 year of age, was found to have Leigh’s Disease and entered into hospice. In an effort to extend his life and relieve his pain, Jagger’s parents turned to medical cannabis. The child, now 6 years of age, is no longer in hospice. This family is suing, alleging the CSA restricts the family’s ability to travel to/thru states where medical cannabis remains illegal.
Dean Bortell – Now residing in Colorado and both US military veterans, A Alexis Bortell’s parents claim their daughter’s condition improved drastically with the addition of medical cannabis. Alexis, 11, has a severe form of epilepsy and suffers from seizures. They moved from Texas to Colorado in order to obtain the medicine to treat their daughter. They are suing, stating the CSA restricts their ability to travel freely, as well as forbidding them from full access to the medicine for Alexis, a child of two U.S. military veterans.
Jose Belen – Formerly in the U.S. Army, Mr. Belen was deployed to Iraq for a period of 14 months. Now suffering from PTSD and utilizing medical cannabis, he is suing for the rights to travel by plane, to travel to/thru states where cannabis is illegal, and to enter a military base freely and safely with his medicine.
“In addition,” the complaint states, “this lawsuit, if successful, would aid in the restoration of communities hardest hit and most egregiously stigmatized by the Federal Government’s misguided and Crusades-like ‘War on Drugs.’”
We’ll be following this story closely and will update Cannabiz News readers on further developments.