Attorney General Jeff Sessions and acting administrator for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Charles Rosenberg have been served with a lawsuit this week as 5 plaintiffs step up to sue the duo for enforcing that cannabis be classified as a Schedule I substance.
The History of the Controlled Substance Act
In 1970, under the Nixon administration, the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) was created. Classifications were given to a variety of substances in order to determine their legality and the punishments given for their sale and use. Each substance was given a default Schedule I classification, the strictest category possible, until an appropriate classification could be decided after a proper investigation. Investigators for the Act expressed doubt that cannabis should even be included in the Act at all as they found it to be harmless. The Nixon administration however, left cannabis to be classified as a Schedule I drug and its classification was used to imprison war protesters, African Americans and Hispanic Americans.
A Violation of the U.S. Constitution
Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD and mescaline. This is the highest risk drug category, holding the strictest rules. In order to be classified as a Schedule I substance, it must have a high risk of abuse, have no medicinal uses and not be able to be safely tested, even under medical supervision. The 89 page lawsuit, which was filed by New York attorney Michael S. Hiller, states that the federal government has admitted several times that cannabis has medical uses and can be tested under supervision. These 2 admissions in and of themselves nullify the Schedule I classification used to make cannabis an illegal substance. The suit claims that the cannabis classification was created for political and discriminatory purposes and that the plant should have never been classified in this way. It states that “classifying cannabis as a ‘Schedule I drug’ is so irrational that it violates the U.S. Constitution.”
The Plaintiffs Behind the Lawsuit
The lawsuit is being filed by 5 plaintiffs from around the country. Retired NFL player Marvin Washington, who was a defensive end for the New York Jets, is suing because he has wanted to start a medical marijuana business and the current scheduling for cannabis prevents him from getting grants under the Federal Minority Business Enterprise program. Alexis Bortell, who is 11 and suffers from epilepsy, is suing to be allowed to travel with her medicine and receive her benefits as a child of a military veteran. Jagger Cotte, who is 6 and suffers from Leigh’s Disease, is also suing to be able to travel with his medication. Jose Balen, who is a 34 year old veteran suffering from PTSD, is suing to be able to legally enter a military base as well as travel freely with his medication. New York’s Cannabis Cultural Association is a nonprofit who fights for cannabis reform, increasing access to medical marijuana and representing marginalized communities.
All plaintiffs are working together to put an end to what they are claiming is an irrational and discriminatory law. If they succeed, it will effectively force a rescheduling or descheduling of cannabis altogether.