NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday urged a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit searching for to overturn the United States’ longstanding prohibition of marijuana, the newest court docket battle over federal coverage below President Donald Trump’s administration.
The argument, earlier than U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in Manhattan, got here a couple of month after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions introduced he would abandon a coverage of former President Barack Obama that had left regulation of the drug largely up to states.
Several states together with, California, Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana for leisure use, and 29 states permit some medical use.
The plaintiffs within the lawsuit, filed in July, embody the dad and mom of two kids who use marijuana to deal with sickness, and former New York Jets participant Marvin Washington, who works with an organization that develops marijuana-based merchandise.
They declare that the federal ban on marijuana violates the U.S. Constitution. Under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is classed as a “Schedule I” drug, which means that it’s thought-about to have a excessive potential for abuse and no medical use. Other Schedule I medication embody heroin and LSD.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Samuel Dolinger, arguing for the federal government, stated federal regulation didn’t permit the plaintiffs to challenge the marijuana ban in court docket. Instead, he stated, they need to carry a petition by means of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“The agency process is exhaustive,” he stated.
Michael Hiller, lawyer for the plaintiffs, countered that the method was “futile,” and that there was no “rational basis” for marijuana to stay on Schedule I.
One of the kids within the lawsuit, Alexis Bortell, efficiently treats seizures utilizing the drug, whereas one other, Jagger Cotte, has used it to alleviate ache related to a neurological situation referred to as Leigh’s Disease, Hiller stated.
“I represent people who need cannabis to live,” he stated.
Hellerstein expressed sympathy for the plaintiffs through the listening to.
“How could anyone say that your clients’ lives have not been saved by marijuana?” he requested at one level.
However, the judge stated he was unsure whether or not he had the authority to reschedule the drug. He additionally dismissed Heller’s argument that the prohibition was motivated by political issues and racism when it was handed.
“The law is the law,” the judge stated. “I‘m sworn to enforce the law.”
Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman