Indiana Judge Rejects Cannabis Natural Law Claim

A federal court in the Southern District of Indiana refused to overrule its previous judgment dismissing a pro se complaint alleging that the Constitution and “natural law” made the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) unconstitutional as applied to the CSA’s attempt to criminalize the plaintiff’s recreational use, possession, and cultivation of marijuana. The court granted Attorney General William Barr’s motion to dismiss on the grounds that the plaintiff lacked standing as his claimed injuries seeking legal redress stood as purely hypothetical.

The plaintiff argued that natural law protects an American citizen’s right to freedom of property. He proffered that all property, including marijuana for recreational purposes, could not have its use, possession or cultivation criminalized if said marijuana was lawfully obtained. This is because, the plaintiff asserted, the personal possession, use, and cultivation of recreational marijuana is an action that lacks “malum in se,” or inherent immorality or wrongfulness, which the plaintiff concluded that, under natural law, is a requirement in order for an action to be criminalized.

The plaintiff went on to state that this prohibition on the criminalization of recreational marijuana required the court to enjoin the further police power of the federal government to prosecute criminal violations of the CSA (which makes it a felony to use, cultivate or possess marijuana unless for federal research purposes). St. Angelo further alleged that as the police power always operated as an illegal violation of the constitutional and natural law right to a “property interest” in recreational marijuana for personal use, all people previously criminalized for violating the CSA for said personal use must have sentences vacated and records expunged.

The court focused on the lack of injury necessary to prove standing. The court held that one holds standing to bring a legal claim when suffered “an invasion of a legally protected interest” that is “concrete and particularized” and “actual and imminent.” St. Angelo failed to meet this burden, ruled the court, as he simply claimed he could be arrested for his possession of recreational marijuana, not that such an arrest occurred. Additionally, St. Angelo lacked standing to pursue relief on behalf of people previously arrested for violations of the CSA as no standing (third-party or personal) can ever exist as precedent set in Gonzales v. Raich holds that “such injury would not create…standing because arrest and prosecution for drug crimes are not invasions of a legally protected interest.”