Last July, several medical marijuana users sued the federal government. While cannabis is legalized in some form in 30 states across the country, it remains a federally illegal substance classified as a Schedule I drug. The civil lawsuit filed argued that marijuana classification as a Schedule I drug should be ruled illegal.
Manhattan Federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein, the judge hearing that civil case, appeared sympathetic toward medical marijuana users in court this week. Assistant US Attorney Samuel Dolinger argued that the case should be tossed and that the plaintiffs should be petitioning the DEA. He cited that as the correct avenue for the plaintiffs instead of strong-arming change through federal lawsuits.
Dolinger referenced past laws like “A 1970 act of Congress that opposed the drug’s use to ‘protect the health and welfare’ of the people, and another act in 1998 for ‘public safety concerns.’” He doubled down, saying medical marijuana had no medical value, but Hellerstein was skeptical of such statements.
“How can you say that? … ‘There is no currently accepted medical use in the United States,’” Hellerstein asked. “Your argument doesn’t hold.”
“It could be recognized to have some medical use” if the laws change, Dolinger said.
At one point, Hellerstein also said to the five plaintiffs’ lawyer, Michael Hiller: “Your clients are living proof of the medical effectiveness of marijuana.”
“How could anyone say your clients’ lives have not been saved by marijuana?” Hellerstein also remarked. “You can’t.”
However, Hellerstein stated he wasn’t sure what his proper course of ethical action should be. The judge wasn’t sure if he had the power to overturn marijuana’s Schedule I status or if the plaintiffs should be finding recourse through standard government agencies. His announcement on the matter won’t arrive until a later date.