A federal judge threw out a case against marijuana prohibition yesterday, but the medical marijuana patients who launched the lawsuit vow to keep up the fight because their lives literally depend on it.
"We are on the right side of history, and we will take this fight to the Supreme Court if necessary," patient and US Army veteran Jose Belen said after US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein threw out the case because Belen and the other plaintiffs failed to challenge marijuana prohibition through the proper procedure of filing a petition with the DEA.
But their attorney says the petition process is basically a "death sentence."
"Resigning the plaintiffs to the petitioning administrative process is tantamount to a death sentence for those patients who need cannabis to live," lead attorney Michael Belen pledged in a statement.
Sadly, that's not an exaggeration since the DEA habitually drags its feet on marijuana reform. A 1995 petition wasn't resolved until 2001, and a 2002 petition dragged on until 2013. In both cases, the DEA rejected the call to reclassify marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act, where it's listed as a substance that has no medical benefits and is as dangerous as heroin.
But those delays are nothing compared to the very first petition, which was launched by the National Organization for Marijuana Law Reform (NORML) in 1972 and dragged on until 1994. During that time, DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young ruled that cannabis should be reclassified since it didn't fit the criteria for Schedule I drugs. He added that marijuana was "one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man" and that "it would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record."
But that's exactly what then-acting DEA Administrator John C. Lawn did, using his power as the head of the organization to overrule Young's recommendation and maintain marijuana prohibition.
So it's not surprising that Belen and the other plaintiffs have lost faith in the petition process. Petitions to the DEA are like the Buffalo Bills. Except instead of choking in the Super Bowl, they get crushed by a legion of bureaucrats who are willing to blindside their own teammates for the sake of upholding an unjust law. And unlike Bills fans, medical marijuana patients can't drown their sorrows in Budweiser and hot sauce since their pain lasts every day, not just Super Bowl Sunday.
And thanks to Judge Hellerstein's decision to throw out their Hail Mary play in the courts, their suffering won't end anytime soon.