Pot-users want judge to declare marijuana safe under US law – ABC News
Army veteran Jose Belen says the horrors of the Iraq War left him with post-traumatic stress disorder, and the drug that helped him cope best with the symptoms was one his Veterans Affairs doctors could not legally prescribe: marijuana.
“Once I did use cannabis, immediately I felt the relief,” said Belen, who is now working with other medical marijuana users to mount a long-shot court challenge to federal laws criminalizing the drug.
The 35-year-old, married father of two is one of five plaintiffs in a lawsuit claiming that the government’s decision to classify marijuana as dangerous is irrational, unconstitutional and motivated by politics, not hard science.
A government lawyer argued Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in New York that the case should be dismissed, citing precedents in which judges upheld the constitutionality of existing marijuana laws.
The government also is arguing that the plaintiffs have not petitioned the Drug Enforcement Agency to reclassify marijuana.
“Any person can submit a petition to the DEA,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Samuel Dolinger said.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers said the administrative process takes an average of nine years.
The suit originally was filed in July as a growing number of states broke with the federal government and declared marijuana to be legal. Thirty have now legalized it in some fashion, including six for recreational use.
The lawsuit challenges the listing of marijuana as a Schedule I drug, a category that includes heroin and LSD. The federal government says drugs under the classification have no accepted medical use and cannot legally be prescribed.
The lawsuit names the Department of Justice, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the DEA as defendants.
The other plaintiffs include:
— Former NFL player Marvin Washington, the co-founder of a company that sells hemp-based sports performance products;
— A nonprofit organization called the Cannabis Cultural Association that helps minorities benefit from the marijuana industry