POLITICS Healthcare Cannabis Clearly Saves Lives, Federal Judge Declares


Army veteran Jose Belen says the horrors of the Iraq War left him with post-traumatic tension disorder, and the drug that helped him cope ideal with the symptoms was 1 his Veterans Affairs physicians could not legally prescribe: cannabis.

“Once I did use cannabis, right away I felt the relief,” stated Belen, who is now operating with other healthcare cannabis sufferers to mount a court challenge to federal laws criminalizing the drug.

The 35-year-old father of two is 1 of 5 plaintiffs in a lawsuit claiming that the government’s choice to classify cannabis as unsafe is irrational, unconstitutional and motivated by politics, not challenging science. Belen and his fellow plaintiffs are pushing to have the Schedule I classification of cannabis ruled illegal.

Their lawsuit, filed in July 2017, received its extended-anticipated courtroom debut earlier these days in New York City. So lots of supporters, spectators, and media members showed up that U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein’s courtroom was packed to capacity. The crowd almost filled two overflow rooms as nicely.

Below assessment these days was the federal government’s pre-trial motion to dismiss the lawsuit.


Dean Bortell, front left, kisses his daughter, Alexis, a healthcare cannabis refugee from Texas who now lives in Denver. Alexis Bortell is 1 of 5 plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the federal government more than the scheduling of cannabis. (David Zalubowski/AP)

Petition the DEA, Say the Feds

Assistant US Lawyer Samuel Dolinger spoke for the federal government.

Dolinger argued that the case must be dismissed, citing precedents in which judges previously upheld the constitutionality of current cannabis laws.

The federal government also argued that the plaintiffs have not petitioned the Drug Enforcement Agency to reclassify marijuana. That would be the correct channel, Dolinger stated, rather than employing a federal lawsuit to force a transform.

“Any particular person can submit a petition to the DEA,” Dolinger stated.

Lawyers for the 5 plaintiffs stated that was true—but the administrative approach requires an typical of nine years.

Dolinger also spoke of the prospective abuse of cannabis by minors as a public security problem.

He referenced a Congressional act passed in 1970 that opposed the drug’s use to “protect the overall health and welfare” of the people today, and yet another 1998 measure that acted out of concern for “public security.”

“How can you say that?” Hellerstein asked. “You say ‘There is no at present accepted healthcare use in the United States,’” Hellerstein added. “Your argument does not hold.”

The judge asked: “Have there been any research?”

That elicited a collective laugh from the gallery, which was packed with healthcare cannabis supporters.

“Mr. Dolinger,” the judge later stated, “your argument is not finding anyplace.”

The courtroom gallery broke out in laughter on a lot more than 1 occasion in reaction to Hellerstein’s cutting remarks.


Cannabis Ought to Not Be a Schedule I Drug

The judge stated that cannabis does not meet the criteria to be a Schedule 1 drug, for the reason that it does have healthcare use. Hellerstein pointed out that prescription drugs that have triggered the “opioid scourge,” as he known as it, are classified as Schedule II—in other words, regarded much less unsafe than cannabis.

Hellerstein discussed different elements of the government’s scheduling classifications, and talked about that sales and distribution of marijuana could nonetheless be regarded criminal if it had been classified as Schedule V, so there was no purpose for it to be a Schedule I.

“We recognize that there are healthcare concerns that can be treated with healthcare marijuana, such as discomfort,” the judge stated.

The judge asked Dolinger if any federal agencies involved in the scheduling of cannabis have a rapidly track for people today whose lives are at stake without having access to healthcare marijuana. Dolinger admitted that such a track does not exist.

Saving the Lives of Youngsters

Lawyer David Holland, representing Americans for Protected Access, was 1 of lots of lawyers for the plaintiffs. Holland told the court that the ASA represents people today who have to have healthcare marijuana access to reside, like plaintiff Alexis Bortell.

Bortell is a 12-year-old Texas girl who moved to Colorado in order to acquire healthcare cannabis to treat her epileptic seizures. Her fellow plaintiff, 7-year-old Jagger Cotte, utilizes healthcare cannabis to manage Leigh’s Illness, which is typically fatal. Given that starting his cannabis regimen, the lawsuit contends, Cotte “has stopped screaming in discomfort, has been capable to interact with his parents, and has prolonged his life by a lot more than two years.”

Holland stated that the federal government has no approach for expedited assessment of the Schedule I classification of cannabis in the case of life-threatening conditions. Prior challenges to the scheduling of cannabis have stretched on for years. He explained that advocacy groups like Sufferers out of Time had been developed for the reason that kids like Bortell will die without having access to healthcare cannabis. She and lots of other people are “medical refugees” for the reason that they had been forced to move to a state exactly where healthcare cannabis is legal.

No Agency Response, No Quickly Track

The judge asked: “When standard human life is at stake, what would take place if there is no response from an agency?”

Dolinger, the government lawyer, responded: “Such choices do not come.” The administrative assessment and petition approach, he stated, is also lengthy in life-threatening conditions.

Addressing Dolinger, the government lawyer, Judge Hellerstein stated, “You can not argue there is no healthcare utilizes. How can you say that?”

“It’s saved a life,” the judge stated, speaking of Alexis Bortell. “She has no a lot more epileptic seizures. If there is an accepted healthcare use your argument does not hold.”

Even though Hellerstein seemed sympathetic to the plaintiffs’ result in these days, he also expressed reservations about the lawsuit’s legal grounds. It is not clear, he stated, no matter if he has the energy to rule on the location of cannabis on the federal government’s drug schedule.

A choice from Hellerstein concerning the government’s motion to dismiss the case is anticipated inside the subsequent couple of days.

Plaintiff Jose Belen emerged from the courthouse feeling vindicated.

“Irregardless of the ruling, in my eyes we won these days,” he stated. “The sheer reality that we had been offered the focus we received, it was a win. We are now 1 step closer to hope and victory.” No matter how Judge Hellerstein guidelines on today’s motion, Belen and his fellow plaintiffs vow to continue their legal fight. The matter will most likely be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, then the U.S. Supreme Court.

“This is a dry run for what will come subsequent,” stated Belen. “We are not going to cease.”


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