Cannabis legalization lawsuit gets key hearing Wednesday

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Image of judge's gavel, marijuana leaf

A lawsuit that seeks marijuana legalization nationwide through the courts will face one of its first major hurdles Wednesday, when attorneys present oral arguments to halt the U.S. Department of Justice’s bid to dismiss the case.

The suit, filed in July by a collection of plaintiffs that range from a retired NFL player to a young epileptic girl, argues that the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 is unconstitutional and asks that cannabis be removed from the schedule of controlled narcotics.

If a New York state U.S. district court judge rules that the case can move forward, the suit could go to trial within another six months, said attorney Lauren Rudick, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs.

Rudick indicated, however, that her team could be in for a lengthy fight.

“Shortest, we go to trial within the next three to six months,” Rudick told Marijuana Business Daily.

She added that the presiding judge has indicated “he believes this case will be decided on appeal.”

That means the case could drag on well into 2019 if not 2020 or beyond.

If the plaintiffs were to ultimately win, it would result in a de facto national legalization of cannabis by removing the drug from the list of federally controlled substances.

The most likely results in that scenario, according to Rudick, are:

  • Regulation of the MJ industry would still be left to the states, unless Congress acts in the wake of a court ruling to further change national cannabis laws.
  • Interstate shipping would probably still be banned unless specific states begin changing their laws to allow such moves.

But first comes the hearing Wednesday.

Rudick feels confident the suit will get the green light and noted that the judge has already granted the case “expedited status.”

“We think that the court is gearing up to hear this action,” she added.