A federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) over the classification of marijuana last week after the plaintiffs announced they would not pursue an administrative policy change as the court had recommended.
Now, the plaintiffs—a coalition of medical cannabis patients and activists, including Alexis Bortell and former NFL player Marvin Washington—plan to take their case all the way to the Supreme Court.
The suit, which was first filed in 2017, argued that keeping marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) is unconstitutional because it creates undue burdens that jeopardize patients’ lives by preventing access to what a majority of states now regard as a medicine. They sought a court mandate to enjoin DEA and require the agency to cease enforcement of federal cannabis prohibition.
A U.S. District Court dismissed that request, stating that the plaintiffs must first seek administrative relief through existing channels such as a petition asking DEA directly to reclassify cannabis. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld that decision last year, concluding that it “cannot be seriously argued that this remedy is not available through the administrative process.”
The court kept the case open, stressing that DEA should “promptly” consider rescheduling and gave the petitioners six months to submit a request with the agency. After initially requesting a deadline extension for that action—which was denied in January—the plaintiffs informed the court that they would not be asking DEA to consider rescheduling because they believe they would be denied and because the agency would, at best, reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug, which they said would create additional harms.
“As reflected in prior correspondence to this Court, reclassification of cannabis under Schedule II would actually exacerbate the conditions afflicting our clients; would instantly throw thousands of cannabis businesses out of business; and would disrupt the lives of tens of thousands, if not millions, of Americans who rely upon cannabis daily to sustain their health, wellness, and lives,” Michael Hiller, who is representing the plaintiffs, wrote in January.
Published: April 23, 2020
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