NEW YORK — A judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit challenging federal laws criminalizing marijuana as unconstitutional, saying the five plaintiffs had failed to pursue changes in the drug’s legal status by first going through the Drug Enforcement Administration.
U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein did not address the plaintiffs claim that pot has medical benefits, but said the DEA has the authority to make that decision and not the courts.
The plaintiffs included former NFL player Marvin Washington, the co-founder of a company that sells hemp-based sports products; Army veteran Jose Belen, who said the horrors of the Iraq War left him with post-traumatic stress disorder, and two young children who use marijuana to treat medical conditions.
Michael Hiller, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said they would appeal the decision.
The suit originally was filed in July as a growing number of states broke with the federal government and declared marijuana to be legal. Thirty have now legalized it in some fashion, including six for recreational use.
The lawsuit challenged the listing of marijuana as a Schedule I drug, a category that includes heroin and LSD. The federal government says drugs under that classification have no accepted medical use and cannot legally be prescribed.