Judge Hears Oral Arguments for Case Challenging Federal Cannabis Prohibition

On Feb. 14, 2018, United States District Court Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein heard oral arguments on a motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Schedule I classification of cannabis.

The suit was filed on behalf of a series of high profile plaintiffs, including Denver Broncos Super Bowl Champion, Marvin Washington, and 12-year-old Alexis Bortell, who has captured the attention of the media over the last several weeks.

The suit seeks a declaration that the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), as it pertains to the classification of cannabis, is unconstitutional because it violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, a collection of productions under the First Amendment, and the fundamental right to travel.

The plaintiffs argue that the CSA is unconstitutional because cannabis’ Schedule I classification is “so irrational as a matter of law,” that the law cannot be rationally connected to any legitimate government purpose.

Specifically, the suit argues that the government fundamentally does not believe its own argument against cannabis, pointing to the fact that the federal government owns a medical cannabis patent and has entered into license agreements with medical licensees.

Furthermore, the suit claims that the federal crackdown on cannabis through the CSA was implemented not because of a legitimate government interest, but rather because of the interests of the Nixon Administration to find grounds to arrest anti-war protesters as well as African American Civil Rights protesters.

The CSA is said to violate the fundamental right to travel because medical cannabis patients when traveling to states without medical cannabis laws are forced to make the choice between traveling without their medicine or risk imprisonment.

The suit is also critical of the reclassification process as outlined by the CSA, claiming that it is a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. In order for a Schedule I substance to be reclassified, scientific evidence must be presented to the contrary.

However, since Schedule I substances are deemed so dangerous they cannot be safely studied, the government won’t approve the necessary federal research to provide the scientific evidence necessary to reclassify cannabis; essentially creating a feedback loop.

In a statement, Michael S. Hiller, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said that the Controlled Substances Act was originally meant to help Americans with addiction but has since been used to “hurt and oppress US citizens”

“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,” Hiller said. “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.”

A timeline for the judge’s decision has not been set.

William Sumner

William Sumner

William Sumner is a freelance writer specializing in the legal cannabis industry. You can follow William on Twitter @W_Sumner or on Medium.


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