Update: Federal Judge Reserves Decision After Hearing Arguments In Washington, et.al v. Sessions

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director February 14, 2018

    Today, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York heard oral arguments on the motion to dismiss Washington, et.al v. Sessions, et.al, a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Schedule I classification of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act. The federal government argued to have the case dismissed. Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York reserved the decision.

    The lead attorney for the case, Michael Hiller released the following statement:

    First, we would like to thank Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein for taking the time to hear the important oral argument made today. We appreciate the time he took to hear from the plaintiffs we represent —  all whom have heartbreaking stories about how their everyday lives continue to be negatively impacted by the prohibition of cannabis.  


    Protecting our American values, way of life and civil and constitutional rights are who we are as Americans. To many, it is obvious, we are living in an era where we must remain vigilant and ask hard questions. If we look back at our collective history, this is not the first time we have seen some in the US government shamefully argue out-dated ideologies under a legal mask that is inevitably on the wrong side of history. We saw this with slavery, segregation, women’s right to vote, the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, gay marriage, and sadly, countless other times.  


    We’ve seen civil rights trampled on before, but we have also seen everyday Americans and leaders rise to the occasion and have our judicial branch recognize when an interpretation of the law is obviously tragically flawed and wrong.  


    The stated basis for the Controlled Substances Act was to help Americans’ lives. However, today, the federal government came to court to preserve the right to put Americans in jail, who use cannabis — even when it used as an alternative medicinal treatment to addictive opioids and powerful prescription drugs. Tragically, what the federal government has done is taken the Controlled Substances Act and turned it on its head. Sadly, the government is now using the ‘Act’ to hurt and oppress US citizens, rather to liberate, deliberate and help them treat their illnesses and diseases.  


    We firmly believe the federal government is prostituting and perverting the Controlled Substances Act as well as blatantly criminalizing behavior that they themselves are inducing. We look forward to standing on the right side of history and ensuring that cannabis is descheduled once and for all as well as to receiving Judge Hellerstein’s decision, and moving the case forward.

    Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case include Michael Hiller and Lauren Rudick of Hiller, PC, NORML Legal Committee member Joseph Bondy, and Empire State NORML Director David Holland.

    A judge for the Federal District Court in Sacramento heard similar arguments in a 2014 legal challenge, also spearheaded by members of the NORML Legal Committee, but ultimately rejected them – opining: “At some point in time, a court may decide this status to be unconstitutional. But this is not the court and not the time.”

    Plaintiffs in the current lawsuit include a former NFL football player, a disabled military veterans, two children with severe movement disorders, and the non-profit group, the Cannabis Cultural Association. Plaintiffs argue that federal prohibition violates their civil and constitutional liberties, including their right to freely travel within the United States. They also argue that the federal prohibition of cannabis is “grounded in discrimination and [is] applied in a discriminatory manner.”

    Lawyers for the Justice Department argued today for a dismissal of the suit, opining: “There is no fundamental right to use marijuana, for medical purposes or otherwise. Because such a right is not ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty’ or ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history,’ the Court should reject such a claim.”

    The judge asked how anyone could say that the plaintiffs’ lives “have not been saved by marijuana.”

    68 responses to “Update: Federal Judge Reserves Decision After Hearing Arguments In Washington, et.al v. Sessions”

    1. Jim says:

      Because such a right is not ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty’ or ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history,’ the Court should reject such a claim.” HUH??? Try again… Going back to 1619 America’s first marijuana law was enacted at Jamestown Colony, VA. All farmers were ordered to grow Indian hemp seed. Mandatory cultivation laws were enacted in MA in 1631, in CT in 1632, and in the Chesapeake colonies in the 1700’s. I’d say that’s deeply rooted!

    2. James R. Johnson, Jr. says:

      Cannabis is absolutely “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history”, Our founding fathers grew this plant for multiple purposes. It sounds like the prosecutors and lawmakers need to go back and reread our history!

      • Paul tallini says:

        The wrongful scheduling of marijuana has resulted in many lost lives, addiction to opiates and life sentences in prison. Marijuana has too many health benefits to list with no side effects. The reason why is was made illegal was to appease big pharma.

      • Jim says:

        This is just some of the proof that I’m hoping that lead attorney Michael Hiller enters this to Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein looks at. This is in the history book and is well documented information about cannabis us in the U.S.A. and that it was part of our pharmacopoeia for nearly 100 years before taken off because of a couple individuals that had no scientific evidence that it was bad for you just they were very influential and didn’t want it around. And lets not forget “Tricky Dick” and the information that was gathered by his so called “shafer commission” to prove how bad cannabis is for the american people but in turn back fired in his face after the findings by his own commission.

        1850 – Marijuana Added to US Pharmacopeia

        Cover of the 1851 United States Pharmacopeia
        Source: antiquecannabisbook.com (accessed Dec. 12, 2011)

        “By 1850, marijuana had made its way into the United States Pharmacopeia [an official public standards-setting authority for all prescription and over-the counter medicines], which listed marijuana as treatment for numerous afflictions, including: neuralgia, tetanus, typhus, cholera, rabies, dysentery, alcoholism, opiate addiction, anthrax, leprosy, incontinence, gout, convulsive disorders, tonsillitis, insanity, excessive menstrual bleeding, and uterine bleeding, among others. Patented marijuana tinctures were sold…”

        Richard Glen Boire, JD and Kevin Feeney, JD Medical Marijuana Law, 2007

    3. Deborah says:

      I wonder if he’ll pass the buck too?

    4. Shawn Perry says:

      This is deplorable! I guess it’s ok to get hooked onto harmful opiates and keep funding big pharm watching people’s lives get destroyed by it but it isnt ok to use the medicinal properties of a naturally growing plant? The u.s. government has lied an contorted the use of medical cannabis since the reefer madness age. Jeff sessions and anyone who has these beliefs an are working over the American people need to be removed from office. Their beliefs are harmful dangerous and complete lies about medical cannabis

    5. Jan Schwab says:

      Stop this war on drugs it has destroyed more lives wasted more money then all modern wars combined. Legalized Cannabis will benefit the our country make create more jobs boost the economy and pay down American’s Dept. Jeff Sessions the people of this nation can and will think for their selves we never asked for you to think for us. Give people the chance to choose for themselves. Jeff sadly does not have the American people’s best interest in his heart.

    6. Tammy Farrenkopf says:

      Praying for positive results. Thank you for taking a stand.

    7. Frederick says:

      I have always belived that making cannabis illegal, infringes on individuals 9th Amendment to the Bill of Rights.

    8. Gary d says:

      Thank u for keeping us updated .
      If there is another suit that gets started let me know as a Cancer patient in remission I count on cannabis to help me daily

    9. Robert says:

      Simply scheduled incorrectly.
      1. It HAS medicinal value
      2. It is NONADDICTIVE
      3. It has never caused a death from overdose
      DESCHEDULE and fix the damage the incorrect classification has caused.

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