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Federal District Court Judge Asks: Should Federal Law Classify Cannabis As One Of The Nation’s Most Dangerous Drugs?

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 20, 2014

    Marijuana and the LawTestimony regarding the constitutionality of the federal statute designating marijuana as a Schedule I Controlled Substance will be taken on Monday, October 27 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California in the case of United States v. Pickard, et. al., No. 2:11-CR-0449-KJM.

    Members of Congress initially categorized cannabis as a Schedule I substance, the most restrictive classification available, in 1970. Under this categorization, the plant is defined as possessing “a high potential for abuse, … no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, … [and lacking] accepted safety for … use … under medical supervision.”

    Expert witnesses for the defense – including Drs. Carl Hart, Associate Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at Columbia University in New York City, retired physician Phillip Denny, and Greg Carter, Medical Director of St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane, Washington – will testify that the accepted science is inconsistent with the notion that cannabis meets these Schedule I criteria.

    “[I]t is my considered opinion that including marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act is counter to all the scientific evidence in a society that uses and values empirical evidence,” Dr. Hart declared. “After two decades of intense scientific inquiry in this area, it has become apparent the current scheduling of cannabis has no footing in the realities of science and neurobiology.”

    The government intends to call Bertha Madras, Ph.D., 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.

    Additional evidence has been presented by way of declarations by Marine Sgt. Ryan Begin, a veteran of the Iraq War; Jennie Stormes, the mother of a child suffering from Dravet Syndrome – a pediatric form of epilepsy that has been shown in preliminary trials to respond to specific compounds in the cannabis plant; James Nolan, Ph.D. an associate professor of sociology and anthropology at West Virginia University and a former crime analyst for the US Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Christopher Conrad, noted cannabis author, archivist, and cultivation expert.

    This is the first time in recent memory that a federal judge has granted an evidentiary hearing on a motion challenging the statute which classifies cannabis to be one of the most dangerous illicit substances in the nation. Attorneys Zenia Gilg and Heather Burke, both members of the NORML Legal Committee, contend that the federal government’s present policies facilitating the regulated distribution of cannabis in states such as Colorado and Washington can not be reconciled with the insistence that the plant is deserving of its Schedule I status under federal law.

    They write: “In effect, the action taken by the Department of Justice is either irrational, or more likely proves the assertions made in Part I (B) of this Brief: marijuana does not fit the criteria of a Schedule I Controlled Substance.”

    Speaking recently in a taped interview with journalist Katie Couric, United States Attorney General Eric Holder expressed the need to revisit cannabis’ Schedule I placement under federal law. Holder said, “[T]he question of whether or not they should be in the same category is something that I think we need to ask ourselves, and use science as the basis for making that determination.”

    The testimonial part of the evidentiary hearing in United States v. Pickard, et. al., is expected to last three days.

    126 Responses to “Federal District Court Judge Asks: Should Federal Law Classify Cannabis As One Of The Nation’s Most Dangerous Drugs?”

    1. Julian says:

      LIGHT IT UP!!!!!!!

      Thank you Paul for your excellent reporting on this HISTORIC event in our history. The timing on this is full consequence, not coincidence;
      -Attorney Eric Holder’s announcement that he is retiring before making the statement to reschedule!
      -The court date is set the week before elections in California to reduce sentencing for minor nonviolent posessions of marijuana, Oregon, D.C. and Alaska are set to legalize and Florida votes on changing their constitution to legalize medicinal marijuana, tipping us well over the half way mark of electoral votes in favor of legalizing marijuana!
      -“This is the first time in recent memory that a federal judge has granted an evidentiary hearing on a motion challenging the statute which classifies cannabis to be one of the most dangerous illicit substances in the nation.”

      Oh what I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall of this hearing!!!
      The revolution will not be televised…
      Or will it?

    2. bobwv says:

      Tell them The sick are healed The given to death Live. Ask them Why do you kick against the thorns.

    3. BobKat says:

      What part of the US Constitution permits government interference or prohibition of the personal use, growth or distribution of a plant especially if the plant has beneficial uses?

      Looking forwards to the outcome of this hearing. Thinking positive.

      In my opinion marijuana prohibition has been and is a form of severe persecution and a denial of one’s Constitutional Right in one’s personal pursuit of happiness, that could result from mating with the plant as a common interest; finding a job the individual dreams about and has the skills and education for, but is denied for use of this plant; laws that create a hostile environment for one to ingest or use the plant for not only personal and medicinal use, also prohibiting the plant’s use in art, fabrics, oil production, reducing global warming, competition in the free markets as a organic commodity; the list is endless…

    4. Dave Evans says:

      Here’s to hoping reality will finally be allowed into a marijuana case… This is very important, as they are finally looking at marijuana and not if the government has the “right” to ban it. (of course they do, but not if they are lying about what it is as clearly that would be a scam). If the Fed’s again side with Prohibition and all its lies, the idea we have access to justice is literally just an illusion.

    5. YearofAction says:

      “In effect, the action taken by the Department of Justice is either irrational, or more likely proves the assertions made in Part I (B) of this Brief: marijuana does not fit the criteria of a Schedule I Controlled Substance.”

      If the DOJ’s action is irrational, then it is because of the irrational federal definition of marihuana. That definition is contemptuous of the US Constitution. The States have demonstrated that it does not “fit the criteria” of a Necessary and Proper law. It is a bad law and a failure, and therefore does not deserve to gain any credence by being rescheduled. If rescheduled, that
      definition will still be a confusing batch of argle-bargle. It should be replaced by this definition which actually shows respect for our Constitution:

      The term “marijuana” means all parts of the smoke produced by the combustion of the plant Cannabis sativa L.

      Since this definition declares and describes the scientific repeatability of that substance, the discussions about its
      rescheduling can provide a way for the States to use science as the basis for making their own determinations.

      This year is a good time to take these actions.

    6. Miles says:

      This seems promising :) The answer is quite obvious to most of us. It is completely moronic that cannabis is ranked as a schedule 1 drug.

      I wonder if the testimony it will make any difference to the powers that be.

      I hope that NORML will keep us posted on the testimony and anything that comes from it. I’m getting to be a bit of a sad old man who no longer has any faith in our Govt so I am not optimistic that a few more people getting the truth out there will prompt any change by our current congress. But I would love to be proven wrong!

    7. i believe (FBI director) Anslinger has killed more people than all wars put together.And president Nixon beef up the lies by starting a war on it.People have been dieing sense 1930s. Because of their desistion to outlaw the most use full plant on earth.Gods gift to mankind.

    8. Todd says:

      I don’t think our Bill of Rights refers to “science”. They hadn’t yet invented electricity in the days when it was written. The particulars of freedom though are self-evident, such as redressing grievances (I presume using logic) which is in fact guaranteed in the First Amendment.

    9. JohnnyHempSeed says:

      Does this mean marijuana could be legal soon nationally? Id like to know NORMLS definition of what all this really means because it sounds to me the government could be changing the schedule of cannabis?

    10. B says:

      It’s about Godd@mn time.

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