Supporters of legal cannabis lost in their latest effort to scale back the drug’s federal classification among the most dangerous narcotics.
A Manhattan-based federal judge dismissed the claims Monday, saying that Congress ultimately holds authority to classify drugs. U.S. District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein directed the plaintiffs — two sick children, a former professional football player and the Cannabis Cultural Association — to go first through federal regulators. Their attorneys have promised to appeal the ruling.
The marijuana advocates claimed the drug was unconstitutionally labeled alongside heroin and LSD when Congress passed the Controlled Substance Act in 1970.
The judge said his hands are tied because multiple presidential administrations have left pot’s so-called Schedule I classification intact. “Even if marijuana has current medical uses, I cannot say that Congress acted irrationally in placing marijuana in Schedule I.”
The legal cannabis industry is predicted to reach $50 billion in sales by 2026, up from $6 billion in 2016, according to investment bank Cowen & Co. Still, the industry is rife with risk. In January, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama-era policy that helped states legalize recreational marijuana.
According to the complaint, which noted that American presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama smoked pot, the Nixon administration was motivated by ulterior motives when it pushed for the Controlled Substance Act.
The case is Washington v. Sessions, 17-cv-05625, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).