Feature Image

Retired NFL Player, Iraq War Vet, Children and Others Sue Jeff Sessions and Federal Government Over Marijuana Status

A group of five plaintiffs have come together to file suit against the federal government and Trump officials over marijuana’s status as a Schedule I substance.

A diverse group of plaintiffs have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of marijuana’s classification under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Filed in New York District court, the 89-page lawsuit names Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Department of Justice, and the Drug Enforcement Administration, and requests that the CSA be declared unconstitutional.

Under the CSA, marijuana is classified as Schedule I, a category reserved for “drugs, substances or chemicals… with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Marijuana is included with substances like heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy).

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Cancer Institute, each research groups funded by the U.S. government, have acknowledged that cannabis extracts may help reduce the size of tumors and kill certain cancer kills. The NIDA also notes that cannabis’ two main cannabinoids – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) – can be useful for decreasing pain, inflammation, epileptic seizures, and muscle control problems.

“Indeed, the Federal Government has admitted repeatedly in writing and implemented national policy reflecting that Cannabis does in fact, have medical uses and can be used and tested safely under medical supervision,” the complaint reads. “On that basis, the federal government has exploited cannabis economically for more than a decade by securing a medical cannabis patient and entering into license agreements with medical licensees.”

“The record makes clear that the CSA doesn’t make any rational sense, and the federal government knows it,” Michael Hiller, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, told the New York Post.

The collection of five plaintiffs include former National Football League player Marvin Washington, who’s also a Sports Advisory Board member and spokesman for Medical Marijuana, Inc.’s portfolio company Kannalife Sciences. Washington has discussed CBD’s potential benefits for treating chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease found in athletes, military veterans and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma, on Fox Business, MSNBC, and ESPN’s Outside The Lines.

Also a plaintiff is Jose Balen, 34, who served in the U.S. Army and served in Iraq for 14 months starting in May 2003. Diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Balen is suing for the right to enter a military base, travel by airplane, and travel to states where access to medical cannabis is legal.

Two children who use medical marijuana are also included as plaintiffs. Alexis Bortell, 11, uses cannabis to treat her intractable epilepsy disorder. Jagger Cotte, 6, relies on medical cannabis for relieving pain caused by Leigh’s Disease.

Also included as a plaintiff is New York’s Cannabis Cultural Association, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that helps marginalized and underrepresented communities engage in the legal cannabis industry.

Their lawsuit also claims that the CSA was enacted in 1970 not because of concern for public safety, but to suppress the rights of African Americans and those who protested the Vietnam War.

“The Nixon Administration ushered the CSA through Congress and insisted that cannabis be included on Schedule I so that African Americans and war protesters could be raided, prosecuted and incarcerated without identifying the actual and unconstitutional basis for the government’s actions,” the complaint states.

Despite marijuana’s federal prohibition, eight U.S. states have passed their own laws allowing recreational marijuana and 29 have legalized medical marijuana. For years, states have been able to implement their own cannabis laws without interference from the federal government, but he Trump administration has made recent efforts to enforce federal law.

You can learn more about cannabis laws in the U.S., as well as the research done investigating cannabis’ therapeutic potential, through our education page.

Post by Eve Ripley

Eve is a writer specializing in cannabis education and editorials related to cannabis industry news.

View More
  • Avon Howard Jr.

    My hands are clapping! I had been saying for a while that we should sue the federal government on the unconstitutional classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug. We need to force the government to prove by scientific facts why marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug. We who know the facts, know that the evidence proves marijuana should never have been put in Schedule I and was an outright conspiracy and crime against all Americans.

    It is a civil rights violation by our government of enormous proportions, when you add up all the illegal incarcerations for those who were caught with marijuana and the millions of Americans who have suffered and died because they did not have access to the extraordinary medicinal properties of cannabis.

    Legalizing and making cannabis products available to all Americans would help reduce healthcare costs because it is truly the most medicinal plant yet discovered and could very well replace many pharmaceutical drugs at a tremendous cost savings especially for those who could grow their own without fear from the government.

    The questions to ask our government are: Why is marijuana illegal when the scientific facts prove it is many times safer than alcohol and cigarettes ( I wish we could question President Nixon) ? Why has the government been shipping to a select group of people for over 40 years, medicinal marijuana and still declare that it doesn’t have any medicinal value? Why does the government have a patent on CBD, (an extract from hemp and marijuana) for its medicinal properties. What happened to The Constitutional Rights of every American to be sovereign in making decisions as to what to put in their bodies with full responsibility as we do with alcohol, cigarettes, etc.

  • mighteemouse

    Jeff Sessions is a perfect example of why we need term limits. I know he was appointed by Trump (we won’t go there), but some of the congress people that have outlived their usefulness need to be gone. Marinol (dronabinol) has been on the market for 30 years. This is basically marijuana in pill form. It’s major use is for AIDS patients with “wasting syndrome” to stimulate their appetite. The main complaint is you have to keep the pill down. Most patients on Marinol would rather just smoke marijuana because it works faster. they don’t have to worry about it staying down, and they have control over how much they use. Some patients complain the pills are too strong. When Marinol was released, it was CII–it has since been reclassified to CIII making it easier to prescribe. But, there is no medicinal use for marijuana, and unlike opiates, no one has ever died from smoking marijuana and it is not physically addicting. Children use CBD oil for intractable seizures when antiseizure medications don’t work. CBD does not cause the high THC does and these kids are now functional again. Lets get some people in Congress with some common sense!!!! Unfortunately, common sense isn’t as common as it used to be!

  • Luciano Tegni

    Eureka!!! Best. Idea. Ever! Congrats and Godspeed! This one is a no brainer, Prohibitionists have got nothing and have been relying on fear mongering and “gateway” fallacies!