Attorneys Michael Hiller and Joseph Bondy are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case challenging the constitutionality of cannabis prohibition. The plaintiffs in the case include 14-year-old legalization activist Alexis Bortell, Iraq War veteran Jose Belen, and 9-year-old Jagger Cotte, who say cannabis treatment keeps them alive.
The lawsuit argues that cannabis’s Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act is “unconstitutionally irrational” and violates the patients’ “fundamental rights to equal protection under the law, substantive due process, and to preserve their health and lives” using cannabis as a medicine.
The lawsuit was originally filed in the Southern District of New York and was dismissed in 2018 by Judge Alvin Hellerstein, who ruled that the plaintiffs had not exhausted the administrative remedies – a petition process through the Drug Enforcement Agency – before filing their suit. A Second Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the complaint but ultimately ruled with the District Court but held the petition in abeyance pending the plaintiffs scheduling of the petition with the DEA; while the DEA was directed to respond to an administrative petition.
“Notwithstanding the Second Circuit’s ruling, the DEA and D.C. Circuit Court have consistently ruled since 1977 that filing a de-scheduling petition of the sort directed by the Second Circuit and the District Court would be futile, since cannabis cannot be de-scheduled administratively or even be reclassified lower any than Schedule II under the CSA. In other words, the plaintiffs were directed to proceed with an administrative review process doomed to failure. Accordingly, they filed their petition with SCOTUS.” – Hiller and Bondy in a press release
Bondy, who is serving as pro-bono co-counsel on the case, said he expects organizations, activists, and members of Congress to file “friend of the court” amicus briefs in support of the petition.
Hiller, whose law firm Hiller PC is handling the case pro bono, said that while the nation’s highest court grants few such petitions, he is hopeful it will accept the jurisdiction of the appeal due to the “mass uncertainty” in cannabis laws, “conflicting decisions among the courts,” the “millions of Americans” who rely on medicinal cannabis, and “tens of billions in capital invested by businesses throughout the country to mass-produce a product, the legality of which is completely unclear.”
A decision on the petition is not expected until next year.
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