Federal reclassification of marijuana could soon be on the horizon sooner than we think, thanks to a recent appellate ruling in a case that pits parents of sick children against the U.S. Department of Justice.
The case, Washington v. Barr (previously Washington v. Sessions), challenges marijuana’s status as on of the most dangerous narcotics listed in the U.S. Controlled Substance Act, on par with heroin and LSD.
Such challenges aren’t new, and it appeared initially as if this case might go the way of all the others. But what our cannabis lawyers noted as unique – and possibly groundbreaking – in the recent U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit’s ruling wasn’t only that justices denied the government’s motion to dismiss and allowed the case to proceed, but that the court:
Took the rare step of asserting it would retain jurisdiction of the case, holding it in abeyance, citing the dire medical needs of children involved;
Effectively put the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on notice of the expectation that reclassification needs to happen soon – within a matter of months.
Why Schedule I Classification of Cannabis Could Soon Change
What it boils down to is the fact that marijuana clearly doesn’t fit the definition of a Schedule I narcotic. As noted by the DEA’s Drug Scheduling Guide, substances are classified I-V, based on severity, Schedule I being the most heavily restricted. Schedule I narcotics are those that have a high potential for abuse as well as “no currently accepted medical use.” Clearly, Marijuana doesn’t fall into this category – and never did. Prohibition and subsequent classification was predicated on politics more than anything else.
Today, 33 states have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, and it’s legal for recreational users in sales in 10 states plus the District of Columbia.
Yet the federal prohibition has created confusion, uncertainty and caused major headaches for cannabis businesses, consumers, physicians, patients and all ancillary businesses. Marijuana companies struggle to obtain loans, banking services, insurance and security.
In the 31-page opinion, Circuit Judge Guido Calebersi writing for the two-judge majority on the three-justice panel stated flatly, “It is possible that the current law, thought rational once, is now heading towards irrationality, it may even conceivably be that it has already gotten there.”
Notably, even though the lower district court judge ruled against the plaintiffs in granting the government’s motion to dismiss, he agreed on record with plaintiffs that medical cannabis had helped improve their children’s health in meaningful ways.
Given the appellate court’s reversal and unequivocal commentary on this, Los Angeles cannabis lawyers see this could well become a precedent-setting case.
Washinton v. Barr Case History
Plaintiffs from the Atlanta area first filed this federal lawsuit in 2017, naming then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (now U.S. Attorney General William Barr) as lead defendant. They have testified in court that medical cannabis products markedly helped treat their children’s conditions, which included which include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and epilepsy.
The lower court had dismissed plaintiff’s claims at the government’s request, finding they had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies in filing the lawsuit to begin with because they hadn’t directly petitioned the DEA for action prior.
Yet even in so doing, the judge stated the children were “living proof of the medical appropriateness of marijuana,” adding he took plaintiffs’ plausible allegations to be true and expressing disbelief that anyone might disagree these children’s lives had been not only improved through alleviated pain and suffering, but in fact saved.
Further bolstering plaintiff’s stance is the fact that the DOJ has held both the U.S. and international patents for medicinal marijuana for almost two decades.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, ancillary companies, patients, doctors and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
FAMILY IN DEKALB SUES SESSIONS OVER CANNABIS CLASSIFICATION July 13, 2019, Associated Press