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Federal judge dismisses challenge to federal marijuana prohibition

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on Monday dismissed [text, PDF] a lawsuit challenging the Schedule I classification for marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act [text].

Judge Alvin Hellerstein granted the government's motion to dismiss because the plaintiffs failed to exhaust all administrative remedies prior to initiating the lawsuit. The exhaustion rule requires "that parties exhaust prescribed administrative remedies before seeking relief from federal courts."

The plaintiffs presented the case as a constitutional issue, arguing that marijuana's Schedule I classification lacks rational basis and therefore violates due process. The court, however, rejected their argument as a means to bypass the agency's authority to first review the complaint. The court reasoned that, though the plaintiffs presented the claim as a constitutional issue, they "seek the same relief as would be available in an administrative forum-a change in marijuana's scheduling classification-based on the same factors that guide the DEA's reclassification determination."

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