A lawsuit filed by Marvin Washington, former New York Jet and now cannabis-based product business owner; two pediatric medical marijuana patients, Alexis Bortell and Jagger Cotte; an Army veteran and medical marijuana patient, Jose Belen; and the Cannabis Cultural Association was dismissed today by U.S. District Court Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein. The purpose of the lawsuit was to challenge the federal prohibition of cannabis.
Opinion: The Dismissal Has Nothing to Do with the Merits
In his opinion, Judge Hellerstein stated that his decision to grant the defendant’s motion to dismiss had nothing to do with the “merits of the plaintiffs’ claim.” In fact, earlier this month, Judge Hellerstein stated during a hearing that “Your clients are living proof of the medical applications of marijuana. I have to take the plausible allegations in your complaint as true. How could anyone say that your clients’ lives have not been saved by marijuana? How can anyone say that your clients’ pain and suffering has not been alleviated by marijuana? You can’t right?”
Judge Hellerstein stated that the plaintiffs should first exhaust “administrative remedies” because whether marijuana is medicinal is something that the Attorney General should decide and not the federal court. His opinion is quite similar to another comment made in an earlier hearing: “There are a lot of things district judges have to do. When agencies are set up to do the very kind of thing that you want me to do, I think the right thing is to defer to the agency.”
Hellerstein’s Opinion: Plaintiff’s Fail to Prove Schedule I Placement Discriminatory
While Judge Hellerstein’s opinion is clear that he isn’t dismissing the lawsuit based on whether the plaintiffs’ can prove that their marijuana use improved their individual quality of life, he did state that the plaintiffs failed to prove another key claim of their lawsuit: that the federal government placed marijuana as a Schedule I drug “in order to intentionally discriminate against African Americans.”
The plaintiffs plan to continue the fight. Jose Belen stated, “We are on the right side of history, and we will take this fight to the Supreme Court if necessary.”