Former NFL star Marvin Washington and others yesterday filed a lawsuit in New York against the US Government and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The suit is seeking to declare the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which makes cannabis illegal under federal law, unconstitutional as to its classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug, deeming it as dangerous as heroin. If successful, the suit could result in the immediate national federal legalization of cannabis. Many don’t realize that the CSA replaced another law, the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which also was declared unconstitutional in the late 1960s after activist Timothy Leary was arrested for marijuana possession and successfully challenged the law’s validity.
The lawyers behind the suit are well-known in NY cannabis circles and believe they have a legitimate case. Quoted in MJBizDaily, Michael Hiller says bluntly that the CSA “doesn’t make any rational sense, and the federal government knows it.” In addition to Washington, the plaintiffs include two young children, a US veteran and a cannabis industry association all claiming harm by the CSA.
The suit argues that the CSA, or how it was adopted, violated the Due Process Clause, the First Amendment and the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. They claim, among other things, that the main purpose the Nixon Administration pushed for marijuana as a Schedule I drug was to incarcerate African Americans and war protesters, believing they were heavy users of cannabis. In the past the US Supreme Court has upheld the right of the federal government to criminalize cannabis, so there is no way to determine whether their efforts will pay off. Interesting stuff.