United States District Judge Kimberly Mueller heard testimony over the course of the past five days in regard to the constitutionality of the federal statute designating marijuana as a Schedule I Controlled Substance. At issue in this evidentiary hearing is whether the scientific literature provides a rational basis for the federal classification of the plant as a substance with “a high potential for abuse,” “no currently accepted medical use,” and a “lack of accepted safety” for use under medical supervision.
The federal government’s position was articulated in testimony provided by Dr. Bertha Madras, Professor of Psychobiology at Harvard Medical School and the former Deputy Director for Demand Reduction for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George W. Bush.
Expert witnesses for the defense who testified at the hearing were Dr. Carl Hart, Associate Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at Columbia University in New York City, retired physician Phillip Denny, Dr. Greg Carter, Medical Director of St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane, Washington, and marijuana cultivation expert and archivist Chris Conrad.
Defense counsel for the litigants were NORML Legal Committee members Zenia Gilg of San Francisco and Heather Burke of Nevada City, CA. I assisted attorneys Gilg and Burke as a consultant in the case prior to the hearing and as their principle investigator during the hearing — a point that the federal government’s attorneys insisted on making public on Wednesday by insisting the judge recognize that: “Defense counsels’ investigator is the Deputy Director of NORML; he’s not some ordinary investigator.”
Representatives from California NORML as well as writer Jeremy Daw of TheLeafOnline were in attendance during the hearing and provide day-by-day coverage of events on their respective websites and at the links below. Dr. Madras was cross-examined both Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning.
A ruling by Judge Mueller is not anticipated until after the first of the year.
NORML PAC is endorsing Representative Alan Grayson in his campaign to be re-elected to the US Congress representing Florida’s 9th Congressional District.
“Representative Grayson is a proven leader with a track record of tenaciously advocating for causes he believes in and building the necessary coalitions required to see them approved,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “In 2015, Rep. Grayson wants to be a champion for marijuana law reform at the national level and we’d strongly encourage voters in his district to vote him in for another term.”
This year, Rep. Grayson joined many of his colleagues in the House in voting in favor of amendments that would have prevented the Department of Justice and DEA from expending funds interfering with state medical marijuana programs and help clear the way for marijuana businesses to have access to banking and credit card services.
“There are few lawmakers, at either the state or federal level, that have exhibited the same level of passion and commitment to the responsible regulation and legalization of marijuana for adults as Rep. Diane Russell,” state NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “Voters in her district should elect her to another term so she can continue to fight for an end to the state’s prohibition of marijuana, a battle she is uniquely equipped for as one of the country’s strongest champions of reform.”
Rep. Russell has been the lead sponsor of measures that would legalize and regulate marijuana in Maine every year since 2011, and she intends to reintroduce a similar measure in 2015. She was also a key proponent of Portland’s 2013 vote to legalize adult marijuana possession in the city.
Commenting on the endorsement, Rep. Russell said, “NORML has been so supportive of our work here in Maine to responsibly legalize marijuana, and it’s an honor to have their endorsement this year.”
You can learn more about Rep. Diane Russell’s campaign by following her on Facebook here.
NORML PAC is endorsing Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman in her campaign to be elected to the United States Congress representing the 12th Congressional District in New Jersey.
“Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman has been a proponent of reforming New Jersey’s marijuana laws during her time in Trenton. She voted in support of legalizing medical marijuana in New Jersey, co-sponsored legislation to decriminalize possession of marijuana in the garden state, and supports a move to the legalization and regulation of marijuana,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “Voters in New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District should vote to send her to Congress where she will be a great asset in pursuing reform at the national level.”
Bonnie Watson Coleman was named by MSNBC as one of the 30 women candidates to watch in 2014 and was named one of the top five female pro-marijuana candidates in Freedom Leaf Magazine.
The marijuana voter initiative that is almost guaranteed to pass on November 4th is DC Initiative 71, the “Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014.” However, as we will discuss, it is far from certain when the provisions of this proposal will take effect.
Readers should first understand that the District of Columbia is not a state; rather it is a special district created in 1790 by Congress from land along the Potomac River, formerly part of the states of Maryland and Virginia, as the seat of our national government. In 1973 the Congress gave the District a limited form of local control, called the Home Rule Charter, which provides for an elected mayor and City Council, which have the authority to enact and enforce local laws. However, any legislation passed by the City Council is reviewable by the Congress, which has 60 legislative days (when Congress is actually in session) to review and amend or reject the proposed legislation. Those same limitations apply to voter initiatives enacted in the District. In addition, under the Home Rule Charter, voter initiatives may not mandate the expenditure of city funds.
That background is necessary to understand the limited nature of the legalization proposal currently on the ballot for DC voters.
What Initiative 71 Would Do
Initiative 71, sponsored by the DC Cannabis Campaign, would eliminate all criminal and civil penalties for adults, making it legal to:
possess up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use;
grow no more than six cannabis plants (with three or fewer being mature, flowering plants) within the person’s principal residence;
transfer without payment (but not sell) up to one ounce of marijuana to another person 21 years of age or older; and
use or sell drug paraphernalia for the use, growing or processing of marijuana or cannabis.
Initiative 71 does not attempt to establish legal marijuana dispensaries, as that would run afoul of the home rule prohibition on voter initiatives mandating the expenditure of city funds. And it does not protect marijuana smokers against job discrimination, nor alter the child custody issues pertaining to the use of marijuana or the DUID laws in the District.