Dirk VanderHart

Dear Pot Lawyer,

What’s your take on the girl who sued Jeff Sessions?

I think it’s great. I’m excited for her. There is a possibility she will win and we should know more any day.

The lawsuit you mention was actually filed by a group of five plaintiffs. The first is 12-year-old Alexis Bortell, who uses cannabis oil successfully to treat life-threatening seizures. Her family had to relocate to Colorado from Texas, because she could not acquire oil under Texas law. The second is six-year-old Jagger Cotte, who treats with cannabis for Leigh Syndrome, a horrible, terminal neurological disorder. The third is former NFL linebacker Marvin Washington, who makes cannabis-based products for head trauma. The fourth is Iraq War veteran Jose Belen, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and was given the option of “opioids or nothing” from the Veterans Administration. And the fifth is the Cannabis Cultural Association, a nonprofit seeking to reverse the racially disparate impact of cannabis prohibition. These are great plaintiffs!

At issue is the federal government’s classification of “marijuana” as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. This classification means that cannabis has “no accepted medical use” and “no safe dose,” and is officially more dangerous than the smattering of Schedule II opiates that kill 91 Americans daily. It also means that doctors cannot prescribe cannabis to patients, and that anyone treating with cannabis risks fines and incarceration under federal law. The longer this Schedule I status is maintained, the more mindboggling it seems.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers in this case filed an expertly written complaint, which you should read. It presents a stellar historical perspective on cannabis, and makes legal arguments that are in turn compelling and creative. Specifically, plaintiffs argue that cannabis prohibition: 1) is a due process violation, depriving people of life and liberty; 2) is racially discriminatory; 3) violates the right to travel; 4) violates states’ and patients’ rights; and 5) has unfairly quashed cannabis research. These plaintiffs sued Sessions himself because Sessions could reschedule or deschedule marijuana entirely, but has instead attempted to re-ignite the failed war on drugs. (I should note that the plaintiffs sued a couple of government agencies, and the “United States of America,” too.)

Oral arguments in this case were made on Valentine’s Day in a New York state court. The judge is giving the case “prioritized attention” and will likely rule any day. Whoever loses will almost certainly appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and from there it could possibly go to the US Supreme Court. Given that protocol, it is unfortunate (and irresponsible) that Congress does not simply re- or deschedule marijuana on its own.

For now, your taxpayer dollars will continue to fund government lawyers fighting a 12-year-old epileptic girl, a dying child, a traumatized veteran, and more. Those plaintiffs have a puncher’s chance. Even if they lose, though, the mounting political pressure applied by this lawsuit and the majority of Americans who want to end prohibition, could soon force Congress to act. Stay tuned.