A coalition of cannabis companies in Massachusetts filed a suit Thursday challenging the federal prohibition on marijuana as it applies to individual states. The suit, filed in a Massachusetts district court, names US Attorney General Merrick Garland as its sole defendant.
The companies contend that the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which prohibits the cultivation, manufacturing, sale and possession of intrastate marijuana, is an unconstitutional ban. They allege the CSA deprives cannabis companies of their rights under the Fifth Amendment by introducing “unwarranted and unlawful federal government intrusion” into their businesses and by depriving them of liberty without due process. In seeking a declaratory judgment, they’ve asked the court to deem the CSA unconstitutional.
According to the challengers, the CSA “undermines state marijuana programs.” They point to the 2012 Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative, which voters adopted to legalize medical marijuana, and the 2016 Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization Initiative, which voters adopted to legalize recreational marijuana for adults. According to the suit, the “comprehensive state regulatory regime … both protects consumers and ensures that the regulated marijuana sold in Massachusetts is distinguishable from illegal, interstate marijuana.”
The suit also alleges that the CSA “harms businesses large and small and threatens public safety.” The companies argue that due to the CSA, cannabis businesses are unable to engage in federal programs. It also creates issues with hiring, advertising, payroll, loans, and insurance because providers of these services tend to have federal affiliations. Notably, state-regulated cannabis businesses are barred from using credit card processors, since financial institutions are federally regulated. The challengers contend that because they are forced to rely on cash transactions, “dispensaries have become targets of robberies.”
Currently, 38 states have legalized medical marijuana and 23 states have legalized recreational marijuana. Shortly after the suit was filed, Darren Weiss, President of Verano, one of the plaintiffs in the action said he is “honored to be supporting this groundbreaking lawsuit … pushing for equal treatment under law.”