9 Amicus Briefs Filed with Supreme Court in Support of Removing Cannabis from Controlled Substances Act

Eight industry organizations and seven members of Congress all wrote in support of Marvin Washington’s appeal to the country’s highest court.

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September 17, 2020

Plaintiffs in the Washington v. Barr case, which seeks to declare the federal law that criminalizes marijuana unconstitutional, have received impressive support in the form of several amicus briefs from cannabis industry organizations, researchers and current federal lawmakers.

The case, brought by former NFL player and current cannabis business owner Marvin Washington, along with other petitioners, is currently waiting for consideration at the U.S. Supreme Court. The complaint claims that the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) is unconstitutional by blocking patient access to the medication and sits in contradiction with the U.S. government’s own statements.

In total, nine amicus briefs have been filed as of Sept. 16. NORML; the American Journal of Endocannabinoid Medicine, a publication led by Dr. Ethan Russo; the International Cannabis Bar Association; Athletes for Care; the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) (with The Arcview Group); The Last Prisoner Project; Americans for Safe Access; and the Minority Cannabis Business Association all submitted briefs with the Supreme Court.

Additionally, U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) filed a joint amicus brief in support of Washington.

The seven representatives’ amicus brief notes that “Congress’s ability to act in this arena is made nearly impossible by various political and logistical causes. And the DEA, the only empowered federal agency, is simply ill-suited to address these constitutional claims; and, in any event, grievances would have to be part of yet another rescheduling petition, which average nine years [original emphasis] for resolution.” This is especially notable as the Second Circuit Court argued in its rejection of the case that the plaintiffs failed to try to convince the DEA to reclassify cannabis, a necessary step before judicial remedy.

In a press release, Michael Hiller, lead pro bono counsel for the plaintiffs, said:

Criminalizing cannabis under the pretext that it has no medical utility and is too dangerous to be administered even under strict medical supervision is not just absurd; it's unconstitutionally irrational. The federal government owns at least two medical cannabis patents, distributes cannabis to patients around the Country under the auspices of the FDA's Investigational New Drug Program, has acquiesced to legalization-programs in 38 U.S. States and Territories … and has approved at least one medical cannabis drug (Epidiolex) for distribution to children without a prescription [emphasis in original]. Yet the federal government maintains that cannabis is as dangerous as heroin, has no medical uses in the U.S. and is too dangerous to administer - claims which do not square with reality and which place millions of Americans, and billions in investment capital, at risk.

He added that the “briefs filed in support of our appeal are representative of what can only be described as national recognition, including by the federal government itself, that cannabis is safe and medically effective.” (Emphasis in original.)