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Federal Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging Marijuana’s Schedule I Prohibited Status

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 26, 2018

    Marijuana and the LawA federal district court judge in Manhattan today granted the government’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit that sought to challenge the constitutionality of cannabis’ prohibited status under federal law.

    [2/27/18 update: Plaintiffs have stated their intent to appeal the court’s ruling.]

    The 98-page complaint, filed in July 2017 by a legal team that includes New York attorney Michael Hiller, NORML Legal Committee member Joseph Bondy and Empire State NORML Director David Holland, contended that the federal government “does not believe, and upon information and belief never has believed” that cannabis meets the requirements for a Schedule I designation under the Controlled Substances Act. It further argued that current administrative mechanisms in place to allow for the reconsideration of cannabis Schedule I classification are “illusory.” Lawyers for the Justice Department argued for a dismissal of the suit, arguing: “There is no fundamental right to use marijuana, for medical purposes or otherwise.”

    Presiding Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein sided with the federal government, opining in a 20-page ruling: “No such fundamental right (to possess or use cannabis) exists. Every court to consider the specific, carefully framed right at issue here has held that there is no substantive due process right to use medical marijuana.” The judge further ruled that plaintiffs had not yet exhausted all of the potential administrative remedies available to them — such as filing an administrative petition to reschedule cannabis with the US Drug Enforcement Administration — and therefore, it was inappropriate for the court to intervene. “There can be no complaint of constitutional error when such a process is designed to provide a safety valve of this kind,” he opined. “Judicial economy is not served through a collateral proceeding of this kind that seeks to undercut the regulatory machinery on the Executive Branch and the process of judicial review in the Court of Appeals.”

    Judge Hellerstein also rejected plaintiffs’ claim that the federal law is unconstitutional because “it was passed with racial animus.” He held that plaintiffs lacked the standing to argue such a claim because they “have failed to demonstrate that a favorable decision is likely to redress plaintiffs’ alleged injuries,” such as a dismissal of their past criminal convictions.

    With regard to the question of whether the plaintiffs legitimately benefited from cannabis as a medicinal agent, the judge argued that the merits of this claim was beyond the scope of the court. “Plaintiffs’ amended complaint, which I must accept as true for the purpose of this motion, claims that the use of medical marijuana has, quite literally, saved their lives,” he wrote. “I highlight plaintiffs’ experience to emphasize that this decision should not be understood as a factual finding that marijuana lacks any medical use in the United States, for the authority to make that determination is vested in the administrative process.” He added, “Even if marijuana has current medical uses, I cannot say that Congress acted irrationally in placing marijuana in Schedule I.”

    Legal counsel for the plaintiffs have yet to publicly announce whether or not they intend to appeal Judge Hellerstein’s ruling.

    A judge for the Federal District Court in Sacramento considered similar arguments in a 2014 legal challenge, also spearheaded by members of the NORML Legal Committee, but ultimately rejected them — ruling that plaintiffs failed to show that Congress acted irrationally when classifying cannabis as a schedule I controlled substance. “At some point in time, a court may decide this status to be unconstitutional,” the judge determined. “But this is not the court and not the time.”

    Text of Judge Hellerstein’s decision in Washington et al. v. Sessions et al is online here.

    58 responses to “Federal Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging Marijuana’s Schedule I Prohibited Status”

    1. Julian says:

      Too predictable. What weak, weak arguments from Hellerstein. What? Judge Mueller’s tactful “Congress doesn’t have to be right” was already taken? So the new catch phrase is “I cannot say that Congress acted irrationally?” Why? Because you’re afraid of not getting reelected? The DOJ wants to kill your career? Or your family? Did Sessions send the Russian mob to your house? Wouldn’t doubt it. I’m sure we’ll find out sooner or later.

      Time to Appeal.

      And the plaintiffs will. The big difference between the Mueller case and Hellerstein’s was that the Plaintiffs in the Picard case had criminal charges for growing mmj in California. Here in Washington v Sessions the plaintiffs DO have damages to declare (despite whatever the Judge says… just show them the medical bills for the depakote Sessions profited off of …and the bills for disproportionate incarceration oughtta cover a few desks…) And as the Judge admitted during oral arguments… some have their lives due on marijuana.

      This is not over. Not this time.

      By the time this hits an Apellate court we’ll have a Congress run by much more marijuana friendly Democrats. That oughtta ease up the Court of Appeals… And tighten a noose around Sessions…

      • Matt says:

        Just FYI federal judges are not re-elected . They are in that position for life or until they retire …

      • Anonymous says:

        Lesson learned.now is the time to do it right.use the response to attack from all sides of the rules . take what you can from the loss and study for the next step.

    2. Dain Bramage says:

      Well, I admit it. The Judge got my hopes up, like Lucy offering to hold the football for Charlie Brown…

      And I fell for it. Again.

      Now I am flat on my back like a sucker. And I’m pissed.

      So, I am in no mood to candy-coat the following question: Do traitors to America have Second Amendment Rights under The Constitution?

      If you agree that the answer is “No” then please consider the following tweet by Norman L. Eisen, who is board chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. He is an attorney who previously served as White House Special Counsel for Ethics and Government Reform and later United States Ambassador to the Czech Republic.

      “Norm Eisen
      ?
      @NormEisen
      Have now read and analyzed Nunes & Schiff memos. Can come to only 1 conclusion: Nunes, GOP leaders, & Trump intentionally lied 2hurt FBI & USA and benefit Russia. That is unlike anything we have seen—far worse than McCarthy or Nixon, who were not aiding our foreign adversaries
      7:01 AM – Feb 25, 2018
      28.4K
      15.1K people are talking about this”

      Second question: Is this activity traitorous?

      If you agree the answer is “yes” then there is no escaping the conclusion that the second amendment does not apply to Trump, Nunes, nor GOP leaders.

      They must be disarmed. Take away their fucking guns!

      • Dain Bramage says:

        Think we have a civic duty to notify the FBI about this?

        • Julian says:

          Ha! No. The FBI works for the Attorney General. Maybe Mueller’s independent councel could investigate Sessions’ ties to depakote and offshore accounts, but, here’s the real appeal deal:

          https://www.marijuanamoment.net/federal-judge-dismisses-marijuana-lawsuit/

          This decision was NOT on the merits. There is a Constitutional crisis here in need of descheduling and appeal.

          • Dain Bramage says:

            I always forget to write “joke” or “sarcasm” when I’m being sarcastc.

            My question to you, or any takers, is: Do traitors have second amendment rights under the constitution?

          • Evening Bud says:

            This case definitely needs to be appealed. Hellerstein’s reasoning is deeply flawed and comes off as arbitrary.

          • Dain Bramage says:

            A key claim of the lawsuit is that there is no rational basis for that categorization. But Hellerstein wrote that “it is clear that Congress had a rational basis for classifying marijuana in Schedule I, and executive officials in different administrations have consistently retained its placement there… Even if marijuana has current medical uses, I cannot say that Congress acted irrationally in placing marijuana in Schedule I.”

            But the question for the Justice Department should not be “is it rational” but rather, “is it just?”

            A crime doesn’t have to be irrational in order to be a crime. Political corruption and money laundering is rational, but wrong!

      • Thomas says:

        What are you babeing about? What dose the second amendment have to do with the subject of conversation? Trump is a fine president, maybe you should go to Berkley and pet the pony.

        • Dain Bramage says:

          Trump is a fucking traitor, and therefore has no second amendment rights. Sessions, Ryan, and McConnell knew about it, and covered for Trump’s crimes. That makes them traitors, too. Traitors have no second amendment rights, motherfucker. Comprende?

        • Dain Bramage says:

          Americans who collaborate with a hostile foreign power to tilt an election toward a Putin operative are FUCKING TRAITORS.

          TRAITORS HAVE NO SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHTS.

          TAKE AWAY THEIR FUCKING GUNS.

          HOW HARD IS THAT TO UNDERSTAND?

          • Leroy says:

            Constant douche-baggery dribble. You’re full of Schiff, dumbfuck. Look in the mirror, asshole. Stop throwing rocks in your tribe’s glass house. Ain’t even any sugar in the koolaid they’ve been serving you.

            You’re the traitor, yet you’re too fucking stupid to realize it.

            Uh oh, some stranger called you out on your idiotic bullshit. Time to double down! No time to reconsider anything, must. hit. back.

            Don’t allow people to have different opinions! People that disagree with you and your codependent sissy tribe are most definitely fascists and must be silenced! (oh the irony… that you can’t even see, apparently) Clearly, only Russians would disagree with the far left agenda! Treason! Take the guns from the traitors!

            Such a silly ideology you buy into and help spread for Soros and the NWO. For shame. For shame. Shame on you, sir.

    3. Dain Bramage says:

      Register to vote! Check your registration status! Find your polling location!

      Mad as hell? Vote!

      https://www.vote.org

      Or, register through the NORML partnership with Rock the Vote!

      http://norml.org/action-center/item/register-to-vote

    4. Russell mark davis says:

      Nothing will change till these old refer madness assholes die off

    5. Dain Bramage says:

      My friends, Four-Twenty is rapidly approaching! Woo-hooo! That’s when we send a smoke signal that is literally visible across all America. And cop a major buzz!

      I can remember a 420 when, not too many years ago, a Colorado state politician called for the National Guard to deploy on Civic Center Park, just a block from the state Capitol, to arrest all the protestors. No shit. They did not deploy, thankfully, but still — what a dick move!

      Let’s be clear on this: Marijuana legalization is less about promoting marijuana itself, and more about ending the violence of marijuana prohibition. That is the priority.

      But, marijuana prohibition and gun violence are integrally related.

      Let’s take a step back and think about this. The Second Amendment is for the purposes of citizens who are enlisted in a militia. That’s what it says. But America already has militias coming out the ass!

      We have an Army, a Navy, an Air Force, a Coast Guard, and more — plenty of legal militias to choose from, if that’s what tickles your fancy.

      And that makes these nut-job militias — you know, the ones that are stalking the schools and the confederate statues these days — that makes them illegal. We already have a National Guard to handle serious internal strife above and beyond fundamental police work.

      They are, in effect, invading armies. We sure as fuck don’t want them at 420 rallies, as foes or allies, stay the fuck away from us!

      How about calling the National Guard out on those cocksuckers?

    6. kangaroo court says:

      it looks like Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein, just proved that ‘the mechanisms in place to allow for the reconsideration of cannabis Schedule I classification ARE illusory.’

      re; filing an administrative petition to reschedule cannabis with the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

      when will this happen ??

      re; plaintiffs’
      -alleged-
      injuries;

      IF HE FEELS, that being incarcerated, and ass-raped,
      is NOT AN ACTUAL INJURY,
      HE SHOULD TRY IT, HIMSELF.

      re; Legal counsel for the plaintiffs have yet to publicly announce whether or not they intend to appeal Judge Hellerstein’s ruling.

      what are they waiting for ???
      going to file the ‘administrative petition’ first ???

      re; With regard to the question of whether the plaintiffs legitimately benefited from cannabis as a medicinal agent, the judge argued that the merits of this claim was beyond the scope of the court.

      OH, YES !!!
      the TRUTH,
      NEVER has any standing in a ‘court of LAW.’

      NO REDRESS OF GREIVANCES = TYRANNY.

    7. Daniel says:

      What a coward. Likely bought off by the pharmaceutical, prison, and alcohol and tobacco lobbyists. I highly doubt this was impartial.

    8. Daniel says:

      What a coward. Likely bought off by the pharmaceutical, prison, and alcohol and tobacco lobbyists during the time he was “deciding.” I highly doubt this was impartial.

      • Demonhype says:

        My thoughts exactly. The judge heard the case, then waited for the lucrative payoff offers from the drug testing and private prison industries. Probably took a bit of time to haggle for more, riding high on the fact that he held the power to either slow or accelerate the inevitable end of those industries.

        I think it’s time these judges’ finances were audited and investigated.

        • Julian says:

          THAT is why I keep saying we need to tie Sessions to Depakote and Abbot Laboratories. If any pharmaceutical company made campaign donations to Jusge Hellerstein during the interim of this open case the decision must be nullified and the Judge must be sanctioned.

          The way we do that in small town courts is find an opposing retiring judge inside the same district/circuit who will go to the press over the bribery during an election year.

          The other reality for Judge Hellerstein is that President Trump could have threatened to replace him.

    9. Phil says:

      can you say pass the buck.
      be removed from the bench now or retire in 3-7 years

    10. Matt says:

      Justice is anything but blind. Ignorant, inhumane, corrupt, bigoted….sad.

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