In a 98-page brief filed during July 2017 by five named plaintiffs, an argument for the legalization of cannabis was presented and a hearing will begin this Wednesday in a New York Federal District Court. The complaint includes testimony from a 12-year old with chronic epilepsy who is also a medical marijuana patient and a former NFL player, who promotes cannabis as a treatment for players and who has invested in medicinal cannabis himself, along with three other plaintiffs.
The argument presents its case through a series of perspectives including the historical accounts of ancient cultures of thousands of years ago. Also mentioned are Thomas Jefferson and other founding figures who used hemp and cannabis regularly for a variety of reasons. The case also uses the Nixon-era material that cites cannabis was used to demonize the counter-culture movement and minority communities in the United States.
Additionally, the case contends that federal law has impeded the ability to conduct business in states where pot is legal in contradiction to the Constitution’s commerce clause. Alexis Bortell, the young girl with epilepsy, argues that the law illegally restricts her right to travel with her medicine in states where pot is not allowed, including on airplanes. A third plaintiff, the Cannabis Cultural Association, a nonprofit group created to assist minorities in the marijuana industry, alleges the law has been used for years to discriminate against them.
According to one of the lawyers who brought the suit, as written in the NY Times, “It’s the first time a young child who needs lifesaving medicine has stood up to the government to be able to use it. It’s the first time that a group of young millennials of color has stood up to the government and said the marijuana law is wrong and has destroyed their communities.”
Although Alexis is unable to attend the hearing on Wednesday, one of the attorneys on the case is looking to stream the courtroom coverage so she can watch it from her home in Colorado, where she moved from Texas for easier access to her medicine.
“We might not have been able to do this 10 or 15 years ago,” the attorney said, “But the climate is very different now.”
This case gained significant traction last month, after Jeff Sessions announced the rescission of the Cole Memo, causing a major backlash against the move from cannabis advocates throughout the country. At least 30 states have some sort of law allowing cannabis for recreational or medicinal use. Although Sessions meant to send a message to the industry, it backfired, causing judicial nominees to be withheld from approval, with no end in sight.