NEW YORK — Army veteran Jose Belen says the horrors of the Iraq War left him with post-traumatic stress disorder, and the drug that helped him cope best with the symptoms was one his Veterans Affairs doctors could not legally prescribe: marijuana.
“Once I did use cannabis, immediately I felt the relief,” said Belen, who is now working with other medical marijuana users to mount a long-shot court challenge to federal laws criminalizing the drug.
The 35-year-old, married father of two is one of five plaintiffs in a lawsuit claiming that the government’s decision to classify marijuana as dangerous is irrational, unconstitutional and motivated by politics, not hard science.
Government lawyers will argue Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in New York that the law is well-grounded and the case should be dismissed.
The suit originally was filed in July as a growing number of states have broken 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 challenges the listing of marijuana as a Schedule I drug, a category that includes heroin and LSD. The federal government says drugs under the classification have no accepted medical use and cannot legally be prescribed.
Mark Lennihan, The Associated PressIraq war veteran Jose Belen, who takes marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, poses in front of federal court, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, in New York. Belen is one of five plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging federal marijuana laws. He is set to appear in a New York courtroom on Wednesday for arguments in a lawsuit that claims classifying marijuana as a dangerous drug is irrational and unconstitutional.
The lawsuit names the Department of Justice, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Drug Enforcement Administration as defendants.
The other plaintiffs include:
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Source:: The Denver Post