"Once I did use cannabis, immediately I felt the relief," said Belen, who is now working with other medical cannabis patients to mount a court challenge to federal laws criminalizing the drug.
The 35-year-old father of two is one of five plaintiffs in a lawsuit claiming that the government's decision to classify cannabis as dangerous is irrational, unconstitutional and motivated by politics, not hard science. Belen and his fellow plaintiffs are pushing to have the Schedule I classification of cannabis ruled illegal.
Their lawsuit, filed in July 2017, received its long-anticipated courtroom debut earlier today in New York City. So many supporters, spectators, and media members showed up that U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein's courtroom was packed to capacity. The crowd nearly filled two overflow rooms as well.
Under review today was the federal government's pre-trial motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
Petition the DEA, Say the Feds
Assistant US Attorney Samuel Dolinger spoke for the federal government.
Dolinger argued that the case should be dismissed, citing precedents in which judges previously upheld the constitutionality of existing cannabis laws.