U.S. Department of Justice attorneys asked a federal judge on Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by four marijuana companies challenging federal prohibition.
However, while doing so, the DOJ appeared to support both the ongoing federal marijuana rescheduling process as well as state-legal cannabis.
In October, all-star law firm Boies Schiller sued the DOJ on behalf of four state-licensed marijuana companies, alleging the federal Controlled Substances Act is unconstitutional and harms their businesses.
The suit is intended to reach the U.S. Supreme Court and revisit a landmark 2005 decision that upheld federal prohibition.
In the Tuesday filing in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, DOJ attorneys contend the plaintiffs lack standing to file the suit because they did not demonstrate “a substantial risk of future enforcement.”
In fact, the plaintiffs’ complaint shows “that the government’s policy is not to prosecute conduct that complies with state marijuana laws,” the DOJ said.
But the DOJ also referenced the ongoing federal marijuana rescheduling process in its argument – and asked the court not to “disrupt or get ahead of that process.”
Further, the DOJ attorneys wrote that current U.S. policy is to allow “state and local experimentation with marijuana laws while focusing federal law enforcement resources on conduct that most significantly affects federal interests.”
In a statement provided by a spokesperson on Tuesday, the plaintiffs said the lawsuit will continue.
The plaintiffs are retailer Canna Provisions, Treevit delivery service CEO Gyasi Sellers, cultivator Wiseacre Farm and multistate operator Verano Holdings Corp.
Central to their lawsuit is the 2005 Supreme Court Decision Gonzales v. Raich.
In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress has the power to outlaw marijuana federally, even if states allow medical cannabis.
However, as the plaintiffs argue, the situation has changed dramatically in the nearly 20 years since, with 40 states passing MMJ laws and 24 states legalizing adult-use cannabis.
“The facts in the Complaint distinguish this case from Gonzales v. Raich, the 2005 Supreme Court decision on which the government continues to rely,” their Tuesday statement said in part.
The federal attorneys referenced the ongoing Biden administration rescheduling process and used rescheduling as further argument to dismiss the suit.
“It is not for the courts to disrupt or get ahead of that administrative process,” they wrote in Tuesday’s filing.
They went on to argue that the way the U.S. government handles the ongoing contradiction between state and federal marijuana law serves a “rational purpose.”