The groundbreaking decision by a federal appeals court suggests that the way marijuana is currently scheduled under federal law jeopardizes the health of the plaintiffs.
A group of marijuana advocates find cause for celebration in their fight to change marijuana’s federal classification. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit last week announced a groundbreaking decision by holding, rather than dismissing, a case brought against the U.S. Department of Justice.
“While we concur with the District Court’s ruling, we do not dismiss the case, but rather hold it in abeyance and retain jurisdiction in this panel to take whatever action might become appropriate if the DEA does not act with adequate dispatch,” Senior Circuit Judge Guido Calabresi stated.
With the decision, the court is essentially telling the federal government that it needs to make a decision on marijuana rescheduling sooner rather than later so that patients who rely on it do not endure unnecessary hardship.
The case is being held, according to a court statement, due to an “unusual” and “significant” aspect.
“Among the plaintiffs are individuals who plausibly allege that the current scheduling of marijuana poses a serious, life‐or‐death threat to their health,” Calabresi stated.
Among the plaintiffs is a girl suffering from epileptic seizures and a child with Leigh’s Disease, a severe neurological disorder which can cause vomiting, seizures, and early death. Other plaintiffs include former NFL player Marvin Washington, an Army veteran who suffers from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and the nonprofit Cannabis Cultural Association.
Judge Shows Sympathy for Medical Marijuana Patients
Calabresi went on to express concern for the plaintiffs involved, calling their traumas “no small things.”
“We are troubled by the uncertainty under which plaintiffs must currently live. Plaintiffs claim that marijuana has extended their lives, cured seizures, and made pain manageable,” he stated. “Plaintiffs should not be required to live indefinitely with uncertainty about their access to allegedly life‐saving medication or live in fear that pursuing such medical treatment may subject them or their loved ones to devastating consequences.”
The plaintiffs sought another opinion after the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed their 2017 case, arguing the plaintiffs should have pursued action through a different administrative process. According to court documents from the new opinion, the appeals court agreed with the previous court ruling, but chose not to dismiss the case, a move that is unheard of in the history of marijuana rescheduling cases against the federal government.
The decision came five months after the first arguments were presented. The same group of plaintiffs have been fighting the battle over the reclassification of marijuana for many years. In Feb. 2018, the group saw their case against former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions be dismissed in federal court.
With the latest case being held open, the court will be waiting to see what actions the DEA takes. Court documents revealed the “crux” of the case involved “new facts related to the acceptance of medical marijuana treatment regimens and the federal government’s own involvement in medical marijuana research require a reexamination of marijuana’s scheduling under the CSA (Controlled Substances Act).”
Joseph A. Bondy, an attorney who has worked pro bono on the case, spoke with Marijuana Moment in a phone interview after the court decision, calling the case “perhaps the most significant judicial milestone in the war against prohibition.”
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