The US Supreme Court has refused to consider the case of Washington v, Barr. This was a case that would have challenged the Schedule 1 status of cannabis.

The news of the refusal was published in the early morning of October 13th in a routine Supreme Court announcement. The case was one among many that were denied certiorari.

The refusal by the Supreme Court will not come as a surprise for the many people around the country currently advocating for the legalisation of cannabis, but the failure of the case will hit hardest on the men and women who worked diligently for three years to try and plead their case to the Supreme Court.

The case was first filed in 2017, initially titled Washington v. Sessions. The five plaintiffs in the case were:

  • Marvin Washington – Former NFL player and medical cannabis advocate
  • Jagger Cotte – A young boy with Leighs Disease whose father is representing him in a fight for medical cannabis
  • Alexis Bortell – A young girl with life threatening epileptic seizures whose family had to move from Texas to Colorado in order to receive proper medical care
  • Jose Belen – A decorated US Army veteran and co-founder of Florida Mission Zero, a non-profit dedicated to combating PTSD and suicide in US veterans.
  • Cannabis Cultural Association – A non-profit organisation based in New York dedicated to helping marginalized and underrepresented communities engage in the legal cannabis industry. The campaign for criminal justice reform and legalisation.

The case was led by the legal director of Empire State NORML (the NY chapter of the nation-wide non-profit advocating for legal cannabis), David C Holland.

It was first heard in federal court in 2018 but was dismissed by the district court. In 2019, they got the chance to take it to the Second Circuit Court where it was also dismissed when the plaintiffs refused the option to directly request the DEA to voluntarily change the schedule of the drug from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2. The case has now failed in the Supreme Court and the plaintiffs will not be able to plead their case on the national stage.

In an interview with the legal news organisation Law360, Michael Miller, an attorney for the plaintiffs wrote, “For every Brown v. Board of Education, there are dozens of earlier, lesser-known legal battles which set the stage for eventual changes in the law to right the wrongs of the past and the problems of the present. Regrettably, (the Supreme Court) decision falls into the latter category, not the former.”

There is still hope, Sebastian Cotte, father of plaintiff Jagger, spoke to Marijuana Moment and with a rather upbeat tone he describes the successes of the three year long case;

“However, we must not forget that this case has been groundbreaking on so many levels. Not only a did federal judge say on record that looking at Alexis, Jagger and Jose that it is undeniable that cannabis has medical properties, but we also believe that this case moved the needle closer to descheduling of cannabis by bringing extra awareness to the unfairness of the current classification of cannabis.  

We are confident our case will help another case down the road achieve the ultimate goal, as everyone knows that it is not a question of if cannabis will be descheduled, but when.”

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