Loading

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. TheOracle says:

      Federal courts never side with legalization.
      They know the case will get appealed to the U.S. Supremacist Court like in Gonzales v. Raich.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gonzales_v._Raich

      Back to this fucking bullshit with filing an administrative petition. They always leave legalization up to the Do-Nothing Congress.

      All they do for folks is stretch out the implementation of things that give people more freedom. Sessions! Equal Civil Rights, Equal Rights, now getting rid of the Jim Crow of cannabis prohibition.

      • Evening Bud says:

        “Do-Nothing Congress” is the word. These assholes like the status quo, because it’s so great for their pocket books.

    2. Jen Stranko says:

      I almost died from alcohol, legal and deadly, there are statistical facts that many die from alcohol but none from cannabis, would this argument work? I have had a liver transplant because of alcohol at age 33.

      • Mark Mitcham says:

        @ Jen Stranko,
        Your testimony can work to save individual people’s lives, by educating them, and giving them a fighting chance to change their lifestyle, and save their own lives. I too gave up alcohol, and have also found cannabis to be a friendly and safe recovery tool. Keep speaking out!

        As far as changing the illegality of cannabis, we won the argument a long time ago. What we’re up against now is willful ignorance, and the pursuit of power at all costs. That’s a tougher fight, as the above NORML article illustrates.

      • Evening Bud says:

        Many of these same hypocrites are the ones who routinely vote against MJ legalization. One of the high-ranking cronies in my GOP Gov’s administration was pulled over in traffic because he was blind drunk–and of course he got off. Just like my alcoholic GOP Gov, he thinks it’s okay to get blind drunk–just don’t dare smoke any weed.

    3. carl vagg says:

      question is not of congress being irrational – way back then – in scheduling cannabis wrongly as S1,
      rather that it is irrational now, today, 2018 to continue this wrong by definition scheduling..

      the fact remains that [just one eg] epilepsy does and has and will respond to cannabidiols [CBD’s] of cannabis together with human brains endo-cannibinoid system.. this reality has been accepted worldwide and in specific cases in usa, such as the eepileptic girl plaintif..

      todays understanding is thus then that cannabis
      does indeed have specific real genuine positive medical effects, including – curing epilepsy –

      scheduling is basically a poisons list..
      highest toxcity is ‘supertoxin’ [S1 in australian poisons list] whereas cannabis is non-toxic with no verified deaths worldwide caused by cannabis alone..

      schedule 1 is, irrational today..
      out for the judge was the idea that those who took the decision to schedule back then,, were
      irrational.. thus that finding in law..
      not,, as to the reality today..
      back then it could be argued decisionmakers had no understanding as to brains endo-cannabinoid system, or natural human produced cbd’S or plant based cbd’s such as cannabis sativa..

      people are assuming the judge was corrupted, which may or may not be relevant..
      fact is there is an ongoing avalanche of global recognition of the realities of cbd’s and of our brains endo-cannabinoid system, and as relate to pain, seizures and so on..

      ‘they’ are exploiting the – usa – system to hold back the tide of change..
      the key is in using the system..
      ‘we’ have the advantage today, now..
      its a matter of using the correct key
      to open this old corrupted lock..

      norml is leading the way, medicine will follow,
      and the majority have already spoken..
      getting the voters out is one such key..

    4. Anonymous says:

      Wow what a POS judge man. I wonder how many MJ users got the bad end of the law from this guy and people who hold his position. Protecting the law and curbing your views is what you do for this job for the people and their rights. Could be bought off or just making sure there’s still meat on the bones for for all the others who have to deal with those who get caught with this plant, I don’t care he’s just as corrupt and mislead as Gen. Sessions on this issue. Man I hope he becomes more wise on this issue, he’s just become another public enemy to MJ user’s.
      This is equal to vaccines from my point of view you simply cannot control what is allowed to go into someones body weather your a government or an individual. When you do you become like the fascist parts of Europe who decides who lives by what medical treatment from the government courts. Think about that if you live there and you needed major treatment like the child (Charlie I think it was) had a higher chance of living through the treatments that the U.S.

    5. LOGICAL maniac says:

      Wow what a POS judge man. I wonder how many MJ users got the bad end of the law from this guy and people who hold his position. Protecting the law and curbing your views is what you do for this job for the people and their rights. Could be bought off or just making sure there’s still meat on the bones for for all the others who have to deal with those who get caught with this plant, I don’t care he’s just as corrupt and mislead as Gen. Sessions on this issue. Man I hope he becomes more wise on this issue, he’s just become another public enemy to MJ user’s.
      This is equal to vaccines from my point of view you simply cannot control what is allowed to go into someones body weather your a government or an individual. When you do you become like the fascist parts of Europe who decides who lives by what medical treatment from the government courts. Think about that if you live there and you needed major treatment like the child (Charlie I think it was) had a higher chance of living through the treatments that the U.S. had and couldn’t get there through his parents will but through the dam government? I mean at least we’re not that F’d up,we’re pretty close with the amount of medical conditions that weed alone can help with just opens up doors to other possibilities with plant medicine. I got a lot more to say, but I got things to do maybe ill continue later. On another note we need to wake Trump up on this issue if we want anything done without him it’s hopeless he seems to fight for the people and what they want if enough people make it clear to him. We need to get him on our side and I thinks it’s possible

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.