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By Lindsey Bartlett for Forbes
The federal illegality of cannabis is unconstitutional, according to this historic lawsuit.
Washington v. Barr is the first court case of its kind against the federal government on behalf of cannabis medical patients. The case, which was first argued in a Second Circuit court in August of 2018, challenges the inclusion of marijuana as a Schedule I substance on the federal Controlled Substances Act.
The lower court rejected hearing the case until the “plaintiffs attempt to exhaust their administrative remedies before seeking relief from this court.” But the court did not dismiss the case, instead holding it in “abeyance.” The court pointed out that, “action might become appropriate if the DEA does not act with adequate dispatch.”
Instead of waiting for the DEA, the plaintiffs in Washington v. Barr decided to file the petition with the U.S. Supreme Court in July of 2020. Its 100 page filing states that for cannabis to be considered a Schedule 1 substance, it must have no medical value. Medical cannabis is legalized in 38 states and jurisdictions across the U.S.
“The fact that nearly 94 percent of Americans support legalizing medical cannabis and yet it remains illegal at the federal level is a national disgrace,” Rep. Blumenauer said in an October 5 press release. “Furthermore, the laws and subsequent court decisions on cannabis are a mangled patchwork of contradictions. This case is an important opportunity to fix our failed national cannabis laws.”
Rep. Blumenauer is a longtime cannabis advocate and sits as co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.
The appeal aims to challenge the constitutionality of federal criminalization of medical cannabis. Five plaintiffs are listed on the case: former NFL player Marvin Washington, the case’s namesake; Iraq War Veteran Jose Belen; 15-year-old Alexis Bortell; nine-year-old Jagger Cotte; the Cannabis Cultural Association. In addition, 19 advocacy groups have cosigned the case, including the Last Prisoner Project, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), Minority Cannabis Business Association, and Americans For Safe Access.
The Supreme Court plans to consider Blumenauer’s appeal on Friday, October 9, 2020. If the Supreme Court accepts the appeal, the case may create the first viable path for federal marijuana legalization since its prohibition beginning in 1937.