Americans for Safe Access file amicus brief in Washington v. Barr, hoping to overturn marijuana’s Schedule I status

Sep 14, 2020

In addition to the myriad of legislative avenues cannabis supporters have traveled down in their attempts to overturn the federal government’s continued prohibition of marijuana, several judicial paths have been taken as well. Last month, a nearly three-year-old case. Washington v. Barr, with former NFL Player turned cannabis entrepreneur Marvin Washington representing a slew of plaintiffs against everyone’s favorite Attorney General, William Barr, was filed in the Supreme Court.

Still, like the legislative avenues before it, supporters understand that it’s a long shot that the Supreme Court will even accept the case.

However, plaintiffs on Monday received a bit of good news, as the nonprofit Americans for Safe Access announced in a statement the filing of an amicus brief in support of the petition for certiorari in the case of Washington v. Barr. The group’s brief was supported by the attorneys in Goodwin’s cannabis and appellate practice groups pro bono.

According to the statement released by ASA, five plaintiffs are at the center of this case, including cannabis activist Alexis Bortell who is 14 years old, Jose Belen, who is a veteran of the Iraq War, and a nine-year-old named Jagger Cotte. These three plaintiffs use cannabis to stay alive, as per ASA. Because of this, all three are required to carry their medical cannabis with them at all times. The stipulation makes it impossible for them to legally enter onto federal land, while none of them are able to travel by air or other federally-regulated modes of transportation.

Fourteen-year-old Alexis has had trouble attending school, as it is difficult for her to find a school that will accept her use of medical cannabis. Currently, she travels 90 minutes to and from her high school. Earlier this year, she was banned from a class trip to Washington, DC, because of the fact that she carries cannabis on her person. She would have been unable to visit any federal monuments while in possession of marijuana.

“Alexis, Jagger, and Specialist Belen all live in constant fear that their medication may someday be taken from them,” wrote ASA, “and that they (or, in the cases of Alexis and Jagger, their parents) will be arrested.”

The case is being handled by Michael Hiller, a former professor of constitutional law whose law firm, Hiller, PC, has taken up the case pro bono. According to ASA, Hiller is confident the Supreme Court will hear the case, even though history says otherwise.

“The confusing and unsettled nature of cannabis law has reached a breaking point, warranting resolution by the Court,” said Mr. Hiller in a statement. ASA noted that Hiller pointed to the “the disparity between state and federal law, the conflicting decisions among the courts,” “the millions of Americans who depend on medical cannabis to keep themselves healthy and alive,” and the “tens of billions of capital invested by cannabis businesses throughout the country to mass produce a product, the legality of which is completely unclear.”

The lawsuit itself is quite simple, arguing that classifying cannabis as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act “is unconstitutionally irrational and violates plaintiffs’ fundamental rights to equal protection under the law, substantive due process and to preserve their health and lives through treatment with life-saving medication.”

“I’m very grateful to Goodwin and particularly Brett Schuman, Jennifer Briggs Fisher, Andrew Kim, and Nick Costanza for working with ASA on this important brief,” said Debbie Churgai, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, in a statement. The Court’s decision will have a lasting impact on the millions of patients with debilitating illnesses across the country that rely on cannabis to relieve their suffering.”

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