U.S. District Court Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein admitted that cannabis has saved the lives of the plaintiffs in the federal case to legalize cannabis but said the “right thing to do is defer” to the Drug Enforcement Agency with regard to cannabis policy, according to an ABC News report. However, Hellerstein didn’t immediately toss the case after hearing oral arguments from federal government lawyers to dismiss.
In a statement following the court appearance, the plaintiffs’ lead counsel Michael Hiller, of Hiller PC, said it was “obvious we are living in an era where we must remain vigilant and ask hard questions.”
“If we look back at our collective history, this is not the first time we have seen some in the US government shamefully argue out-dated ideologies under a legal mask that is inevitably on the wrong side of history. We saw this with slavery, segregation, women’s right to vote, the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, gay marriage, and sadly, countless other times. We’ve seen civil rights trampled on before, but we have also seen everyday Americans and leaders rise to the occasion and have our judicial branch recognize when an interpretation of the law is obviously tragically flawed and wrong.” – Hiller in a statement
Hiller, along with lead counsel Laura Rudick, and co-counsels Joseph Bondy and David Holland are arguing, in part, that cannabis’ addition to the federal Controlled Substances Act is unconstitutional because its inclusion was an attempt to arrest and jail African-Americans and anti-war hippies by the Nixon Administration. Hellerstein told the team they “can’t win with that argument.”
“The stated basis for the Controlled Substances Act was to help Americans’ lives. However, today, the federal government came to court to preserve the right to put Americans in jail, who use cannabis – even when it is used as an alternative medicinal treatment to addictive opioids and powerful prescription drugs. Tragically, what the federal government has done is taken the Controlled Substances Act and turned it on its head. Sadly, the government is now using the ‘Act’ to hurt and oppress US citizens, rather to liberate, deliberate and help them treat their illnesses and diseases.” – Hiller
There is no timeline for Hellerstein to make a decision whether to toss the case or allow it to proceed.