Sacramento, CA – A federal judge in Northern California has decided to rule against a motion that challenges the constitutionality of marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I prohibited substance that has no medicinal value. Had the motion passed, it could have offered a chance for the Supreme Court to legalize marijuana nationwide. While this announcement comes as a defeat, advocates say it isn’t over.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA):
Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no current accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are:
Heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote
On April 15, Judge Kimberly J. Mueller of the Federal District Court issued an oral ruling during the 15-minute court hearing.
“At some point in time, a court may decide this status to be unconstitutional,” Judge Mueller stated from the bench. “But this is not the court and not the time.”
The defense counsel—attorneys Zenia Gilg and Heather Burke of the NORML Legal Committee—intends to appeal the ruling.
Reports state that the judge had postponed her ruling for quite some time. The case appears to have begun in October of 2014, when defense counsel and experts presented evidence over a five-day period. The defense argues that the scientific literature is not supportive of the plant’s current categorization.
Lawyers for the federal government countered that as long as there remains any dispute among experts with regard to marijuana’s safety and efficacy, then it is rational for the drug to maintain its classification next to LSD and ecstasy. However, the defense further contended that “the federal law prohibiting Justice Department officials from interfering with the facilitation of the regulated distribution of cannabis in over 20 US states cannot be reconciled with the government’s continued insistence that the plant is deserving of its Schedule I status under federal law.”
In a statement from Paul Armentano, NORML’s deputy director who served as the principal investigator for defense counsel:
“We applaud Judge Mueller for having the courage to hear this issue and provide it the careful consideration it deserves. While we are disappointed with this ruling, it changes little. We always felt this had to ultimately be decided by the Ninth Circuit and we have an unprecedented record for the court to consider.
“In the interim, it is our hope that lawmakers move expeditiously to change public policy. Presently, bipartisan legislation is before the House and Senate to recognize cannabis’ therapeutic utility and to reschedule it accordingly and we encourage members of Congress to move forward expeditiously to enact this measure.”
In a brief filed with the court by the federal government:
“Congress’ decision to treat marijuana as a controlled substance was and remains well within the broad range of permissible legislative choices. Defendants appear to argue that Congress was wrong or incorrectly weighed the evidence. Although they failed to prove even that much, it would be insufficient. Rational basis review does not permit the Court’s to ‘second guess’ Congress’ conclusions, but only to enjoin decisions that are totally irrational or without an ‘imaginable basis.”
They add: “Congress is not required to be ‘right,’ nor does it matter if the basis on which Congress made its decision turns out to be ‘wrong.’ All that is required is that Congress could rationally have believed that its action—banning the production and distribution of marijuana—would advance its indisputably legitimate interests in promoting public health and welfare. Because qualified experts disagree, it is not for the Courts to decide the issue and the statute must be upheld.”
“The continued Schedule I classification of cannabis, in 2015, is self-evidently ridiculous. But unfortunately, the law may be ridiculous and still pass constitutional muster.” He adds, “The judge in this case missed a golden opportunity to demand that federal law comport with available science, public opinion, and common sense.”
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Armentano, Paul. The Daily Chronic. Apr 15, 2015. (http://www.thedailychronic.net/2015/42348/federal-judge-upholds-schedule-1-classification-of-cannabis/)
Broze, Derrick. Antimedia. Mar 31, 2015. (http://theantimedia.org/cannabis-is-not-a-crime-judge-to-rule-on-weeds-schedule-1-status-next-month/)