Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging Federal Marijuana Prohibition

New York, NY: A federal district court judge in Manhattan on Monday granted the government’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit that sought to challenge the constitutionality of cannabis’ prohibited status under federal law.

Presiding Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein opined in a 20-page ruling that the plaintiffs lacked any “fundamental right” to use cannabis as a medicine, and that they had failed to exhaust all potential administrative remedies available prior to challenging the constitutionality of the federal law in court. “Judicial economy is not served through a collateral proceeding of this kind that seeks to undercut the regulatory machinery on the Executive Branch and the process of judicial review in the Court of Appeals,” he ruled.

With regard to the question of whether the plaintiffs legitimately benefited from cannabis therapy, the judge argued that the merits of this claim were beyond the scope of the court. “Plaintiffs’ amended complaint, which I must accept as true for the purpose of this motion, claims that the use of medical marijuana has, quite literally, saved their lives,” he wrote. “I highlight plaintiffs’ experience to emphasize that this decision should not be understood as a factual finding that marijuana lacks any medical use in the United States, for the authority to make that determination is vested in the administrative process.” He added, “Even if marijuana has current medical uses, I cannot say that Congress acted irrationally in placing marijuana in Schedule I.”

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case have said that they plan to appeal the ruling.

For more information, contact Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Director, at (202) 483-5500. Text of Judge Hellerstein’s ruling is available online.