Want to Join ASA for Medical Cannabis Patients' Day in Federal Court?

September 06, 2012 | Mike Liszewski
After a full decade of waiting, medical cannabis patients will finally have their day in federal court on October 16, 2012 when the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed to hear oral arguments in Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration. The hearing will be a historic day in the medical cannabis movement and ASA’s staff have been fielding a great many inquiries from our members about how they can get a “front row seat” to history. Well, not everyone will be so lucky as to sit in the front row seat in the courtroom, but many of our members will be able to watch the hearing live. Below are details on how you can join ASA in the courtroom that day, but first, some brief background on the case.

The Legal Battle to Reschedule Cannabis, 10 Years in the Making

The history of this case begins in 2002 when Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) filed its petition, the courts will finally review the scientific evidence regarding the medical value of marijuana. Since “marijuana” (cannabis) was originally placed and has since remained in Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act, the U.S. Government holds the position that the plant has no accepted medical value and is unsafe to use for medical purposes. The appeal case on Oct. 16 with challeng the July 2011 Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) denial of the CRC petition, which was filed in 2002. ASA’s Chief Counsel, Joe Elford, summarizes the case as,
“...a rare opportunity for patients to confront politically motivated decision-making with scientific evidence of marijuana's medical efficacy. What's at stake in this case is nothing less than our country's scientific integrity and the imminent needs of millions of patients."

While a decision in the case will not come for several weeks after oral arguments, many medical cannabis patients and their loved ones will no doubt want to join Elford in the courtroom as he presents ASA’s argument before the court.

How to Attend Your Day in Federal Court

The Oct. 16th oral argument hearing will be held E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse, however, those planning to attend should take note that there is very limited seating, and ASA cannot reserve seating for the public. The hearing is currently scheduled for 9:30am in Courtroom 11 (4th floor), which has a maximum capacity of only 80 members of the public. While there is a chance that the hearing may be moved to a larger courtroom, the largest courtroom available has a maximum capacity of 200 members of the public.

Those wishing to be in the courtroom that day should be prepared to wake up early and wait in line, as seating is first come, first served. The courthouse opens at 8am, and the line to view the hearing begins right outside the Courtroom 11 doors. Typically the courtroom begins seating members of the public at 9:10am, with the hearing beginning at 9:30am. It appears as though ASA vs. DEA will be the second hearing held in Courtroom 11 that morning, so safe access advocates packing the courtroom may end up sitting through the case unrelated to medical cannabis, Gang Luan vs. US.

What to Bring, and What Not to Bring

Security at the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse is higher than most federal buildings in DC, and many items are not allowed in the courthouse, much less the courtroom. Nobody is permitted in the courthouse without presenting a valid government-issued photo ID card. Backpacks, briefcases and purses are permitted in the courthouse, but electronic devices are only by attorneys who can practice federal court and credentialed members of the media. Technically, certain kinds of electronic devices are permitted, but since nearly every device is capable of recording audio and/or video, it applies to most electronic devices. The court does have lockers where electronic devices capable of recording may be stored while attending a hearing. Traditional film cameras are strictly forbidden as well. Additionally, visitors are forbidden from bringing in “all liquids, aerosols, and gels in excess of 3.4 ounces (100 ml).”

Getting to the Courthouse

The courthouse is located at 333 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20001. Both locals and those coming in from out of town to attend the hearing are highly encouraged to take public transportation. The DC Metro system has two stops that are short walks to the hearing on the Red line at Judiciary Square, and Green/Yellow lines at Archives. There are a handful of public parking lots nearby, but they are not cheap, nor are they closer to the courthouse than the Metro stations.

Although there are 4 entrances to the courthouse, individuals with physical disabilities should use either the 3rd ST entrance or John Marshall Park entrance.

ASA looks forward to seeing you on YOUR day in federal court to watch history unfold before our eyes!
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