Justice

The Federal Government is Being Sued Over Marijuana

July 25th 2017

By:
Kyle Jaeger

A group of patients, veterans, and one Super Bowl champion filed a lawsuit against the federal government on Tuesday, arguing that the prohibition of marijuana is unconstitutional.

marijuana

The suit alleges that the federal government knowingly and unjustifiably classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which has forced families to flee to states where cannabis is legal in pursuit of medical treatment.

It also contends that people like former NFL player Marvin Washington—a plaintiff in the suit who is ineligible to receive grants from the Federal Minority Business Enterprise program because of marijuana's prohibition—have suffered financial consequences due to a law that was imposed for "racial and discriminatory" reasons. 

someone-smoking-joint-lighter

David Holland, an attorney involved in the case, told ATTN: that evidence the firm has gathered backs up a 2016 report in Harper's Magazine that President Richard Nixon's administration banned cannabis as a means to crack down on "the antiwar left and black people"

"The basis of the lawsuit is that when the CSA was enacted in 1970, it was really done with racial and discriminatory intent," Holland said. Nixon felt that marijuana use was a "common denominator" among blacks and anti-war protestors, and since "they couldn't penalize these people for their racial origins or for their political views, they would use [prohibition] as the Swiss army knife by which to attack these groups of people."

Nixon with edited transcripts of Nixon White House Tape

Schedule 1 drugs are those considered to be medically useless with a strong potential for abuse. Legalization advocates, backed by mounds of evidence, argue that marijuana doesn't fit this criteria. 

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which was also named in the lawsuit, upheld marijuana's Schedule 1 status as recently as August 2016.

DEA

Though it's uncertain how the federal government will respond to the lawsuit—and it may push to have the suit dismissed—attorneys representing the plaintiffs are confident they will prevail. 

"It’s of fundamental importance," Holland said. "Not just because of pot—this is a vector into people’s pockets, people of color’s pockets and backpacks and vehicles and homes. It’s a way people get screwed out of public housing and their loans. It’s a way they slide down a slippery slope and get screwed."

ATTN: reached out to the White House, Justice Department, and DEA for comment on this suit, but representatives did not immediately respond.