Earlier this month, on Valentine’s Day, a court in New York heard the initial arguments coming from 5 plaintiffs who were hoping to see cannabis removed from the Controlled Substances Act after deeming it unconstitutional. The five plaintiffs included two minors who are medical marijuana patients, a veteran with PTSD, a former NFL player who owns a CBD product line, and an activist group. The defendants in the case were Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Department of Justice.
When the case was being heard last week, it was to determine whether the case would move forward or be dismissed – which is obviously what the federal government was aiming for.
Unfortunately, this week Judge Alvin Hellerstein provided a 20-page opinion when deciding to dismiss the case for now. In that opinion, the judge said that his decision did not address the plaintiffs’ main argument – which is that marijuana clearly has medicinal benefits and therefore does not meet qualifications for a Schedule I drug under the definition of the CSA, even mentioning once again that it has helped one of the minor plaintiffs, Alexis Bortell, to be seizure-free for three years.
Instead, he pointed out that the plaintiffs were required to first petition the Drug Enforcement Administration to declassify marijuana as a Schedule I drug. The DEA has previously rejected petitions to reschedule cannabis in 2011 and most recently in 2016 – and the plaintiffs did not take this route because it has proven ineffective in the past.
“Resigning the plaintiffs to the petitioning administrative process is tantamount to a death sentence for those patients who need cannabis to live,” said Michael Hiller, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
While Hellerstein did state in his opinion that this decision to dismiss the case “should not be understood as a factual finding that marijuana lacks any medical use in the United States,” he did want it known that he believes the decision should be one made by the DEA and not determined by courts.
“The bottom line is that we think the judge neglected parts of our argument that were of critical importance,” Mr. Bondy said. “We believe in our claims and we’re going to continue to push the ball forward.”
The attorneys representing the plaintiffs are planning to appeal the judge’s decision, asking Hellerstein to reconsider. Whether it will be successful or not, we will have to wait and see – but for now the hope that this judge would see the importance of letting this case be heard seems to have been lost, and the plaintiffs may be forced to petition the DEA before the case can be heard again.