Blumenauer Calls on Supreme Court to Review Historic Appeal Challenging the Constitutionality of Federal Criminalization of Cannabis

October 5, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, called upon the U.S. Supreme Court to review and proceed with hearing Washington v. Barr, the most significant and potentially consequential cannabis-related lawsuit ever to be filed.

The Court will consider the plaintiffs’ appeal at a conference on Friday, October 9, and if the Court accepts the appeal for consideration, it could pave the way to federal legalization of cannabis for the first time since 1937, providing relief to millions of Americans who treat with medical marijuana to maintain their health and lives. If the Court were to decline to hear the appeal, the case would be over for good, resigning another generation of medical marijuana patients and the state-legal cannabis industry – which has invested billions in the state-legal market – to further legal uncertainty.

“The fact that nearly 94 percent of Americans support legalizing medical cannabis and yet it remains illegal at the federal level is a national disgrace,” said Blumenauer. “Furthermore, the laws and subsequent court decisions on cannabis are a mangled patchwork of contradictions. This case is an important opportunity to fix our failed national cannabis laws.”

In July 2020, the plaintiffs in Washington v. Barr filed their appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, challenging the constitutionality of the federal criminalization of medical marijuana. The case was filed on behalf of five plaintiffs, including former NFL player Marvin Washington, Iraq War Veteran Jose Belen, 15-year-old Alexis Bortell, nine-year-old Jagger Cotte and the Cannabis Cultural Association.

As acknowledged by the District Court in this case, Alexis, Jagger and Specialist Belen are patients whose lives have been saved by medical cannabis. As reflected in the Complaint, Marvin Washington is a cannabis entrepreneur whose business would otherwise be eligible for federal funding through the Minority Business Enterprise program, but for his participation in the cannabis industry. The Cannabis Cultural Association seeks economic parity and social justice for persons of color who have been unfairly singled out for prosecution under the Controlled Substances Act and unjustly excluded economically from the state-legal cannabis industry.

Blumenauer along with seven federal lawmakers submitted an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff’s appeal. The case also has amicus brief support from 19 advocacy groups, including the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the International Cannabis Bar Association, National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), Last Prisoner Project, Minority Cannabis Business Association, and Americans For Safe Access.

Despite its legalization by 38 U.S. states and territories, cannabis is illegal at the federal level, creating insurmountable problems for patients around the country. Patients have lost their jobs, been expelled from colleges, and lost their professional licenses, even if state-legal jurisdictions, due to cannabis stigmatization wrought by federal prohibition.

While cannabis is also on the ballot in five states that will be voting on some form of cannabis legalization in November, adoption of legalization electorally on the state level will not solve the problems associated with federal prohibition. Rather, it would merely reinforce the absurdity of marijuana’s classification under Schedule I.

To read the full amicus brief filed on behalf of Blumenauer and his Congressional colleagues, click here.