A lawsuit was filed yesterday that has all the makings of a landmark case. Targeting Attorney General Jeff Sessions and acting head of the Drug Enforcement Agency, Chuck Rosenberg, the suit argues that marijuana’s Schedule I status is not only unjustified but unconstitutional.
The Basis of the Case
The lawsuit seeks to declassify marijuana as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and challenges the constitutionality of the CSA itself. For a drug to meet Schedule I status, it must meet three requirements:
- A high potential for abuse
- No currently accepted medical use
- Cannot be safely tested under the supervision of medical professionals
Marijuana-derived medicines have been proven as legitimate and successful treatments for many diseases in multiple medically supervised clinical trials. Three of the plaintiffs use some form of medical marijuana daily with great success.
Through proving that marijuana-derived medicines do not meet Schedule I requirements, the case also claims that the CSA “unconstitutionally criminalized the cultivation, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis.” Cannabis has historically been raised and harvested for medicinal purposes. The plaintiffs hold that the CSA violates multiple constitutional rights:
- Due process under the Fifth Amendment
- Multiple protections under the First Amendment
- The right to travel
- The Commerce Clause under Article 1 of the Constitution
The Five Plaintiffs
Marvin Washington, a former NFL defensive lineman, is currently a businessman in the cannabis-based medication industry working towards minimizing damage caused by head injuries in sports and reducing or eliminating opioid addiction among professional athletes.
Jose Belen, a US Army veteran suffering from combat-related PTSD, uses cannabis-derived medicine to successfully treat his PTSD. Because this method of treatment is not approved by the Veteran’s Administration, Belen is unable to legally access care that he is entitled to as a veteran.
Alexis Bortell, an 11-year-old girl from Texas, suffers from intractable epilepsy which produces multiple daily seizures. She had to relocate to Colorado to access medical marijuana which has kept her seizure-free for more than 800 days. Alexis has since co-authored a book called “Let’s Talk About Medical Cannabis,” been named a PACT National Pediatric Ambassador and received the Texas Liberty Award. Her father is a US veteran, which makes her eligible for insurance; however, her use of CBD oil to prevent seizures keeps her from legally entering a military base to access care or travel to or through states that haven’t legalized marijuana.
Jagger Cotte, a six-year-old boy, has extended his life two years past his expected life span with the help of medical marijuana. Jagger suffers from a rare congenital disease called Leigh’s Disease. Leigh’s Disease patients are not expected to live past the age of four years. They suffer from constant and chronic pain that is difficult to treat due to the patient’s age. CBD oil is the only treatment that has brought Jagger any relief, and it has allowed him a quality of life otherwise not available. Like Alexis, his use of CBD oil prevents him from legally traveling without fear of his parents’ arrest.
Cannabis Cultural Association, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation, was founded to provide a voice to people of color in the cannabis industry. It maintains in the case that persons of color “are disproportionately investigated and prosecuted for drug offenses, [and] have been unfairly and inequitably excluded from the cannabis industry.”
Currently, Belen and the two child plaintiffs are resigned to a choice between their life and health or risking arrest if they exercise their constitutional rights to travel or even live where they want. Washington feels he cannot legally avail himself of the benefits of the Federal Minority Business Enterprise program because the business connection with whole-plant cannabis products is illegal under the CSA. Winning the case would mean a return of constitutional rights for all those whose lives are enriched through medical marijuana.