A new lawsuit against the White House is challenging federal laws on cannabis and its medical application in the US. Last week (February 14) arguments were presented for Washington, et.al v. Sessions, a New York case in which the plaintiffs are seeking an update to the major barrier for the full legalization of the drug.
Despite previous similar hearings held across the country, this particular case is gaining momentum thanks to its collection of plaintiffs. The formal lawsuit was filed last year in the Federal District Court in Manhattan and places the Department of Justice, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the DEA as the defendants for the case.
Alexis Bortell is a 12-year-old girl dealing with epilepsy using a cannabis treatment and one of the plaintiffs at the center of this case. She argued for her right to travel with medicinal cannabis between states and into ones where the drug remains illegal. Jager Cotte
From the remaining five plaintiffs, they include Marvin Washington, a former football player arguing for his right to conduct cannabis-related business in between states. Jager Cotte, another pediatric cannabis patient. The Cannabis Cultural Association (CCA), a nonprofit focused on aiding marginalized communities in the industry, and Jose Belen an Army veteran using cannabis to treat his PTSD.
Advocates hopeful thanks to sympathetic comment from Judge
According to NORML, an advocacy group seeking to change federal marijuana laws, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York showed sympathy for the plaintiffs by asking how anyone could say their lives had not “been saved by marijuana.”
However, Hellerstein agreed with the government’s argument that “the plaintiffs have not petitioned the Drug Enforcement Agency to reclassify marijuana,” a report from the Associated Press said last Wednesday.
“The lawsuit claims that the government’s decision to classify marijuana as dangerous is irrational, unconstitutional and motivated by politics,” the report said.
On the government’s side, Justice Department lawyers requested the case to be dismissed based on the current federal stance against marijuana.
“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,” NORML wrote.
Cannabis remains illegal under the federal system in the US in accordance with the Controlled Substance Act. The Act catalogs the plant as a Schedule I drug, “the most restrictive category reserved for the most dangerous narcotics,” the New York Times wrote.
CCA co-founder and deputy director Jake Plowden told Cannabis Now this case could represent the actual de-scheduling of cannabis as a Schedule I drug and “ultimately ending global cannabis prohibition.”
This case picked up steam from the decision by Sessions to rescind Obama-era guidance protecting the cannabis industry. The uncertainty of the market was increased last month when Sessions introduced his own memorandum allowing federal prosecutors to use their law against cannabis companies if they deemed it so.
Since the change in policy, there hasn’t been a crackdown on companies operating in the States. However, public companies in Canada had to provide an update on their risk disclosures to potential shareholders.
As this case continues to gain prominence, there could be developments affecting the laws in the US, a country holding some of the biggest markets available.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Bryan Mc Govern, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.