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Courts

  • 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.

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel September 8, 2014

    As we approach the annual Boston Freedom Rally in mid-September, held on the historic Boston Common, I thought it might be a good time for me to share with the readers the details of a bust I experienced, along with High Times associate publisher Rick Cusick, for sharing a joint at the combined NORML/High Times booth at the 2007 Freedom Rally.

    The reality is that marijuana smokers remain the target of aggressive and misguided law enforcement activities in most states today. They read about the newly-won freedoms in a handful of states, and dream of the day when their state laws will become more tolerant; but they are still being busted in large numbers and have to worry that next knock on the door may be the police with a search warrant, about to destroy their homes and wreck their lives, looking for a little weed.

    In fact, 749,825 Americans were arrested on marijuana charges in 2012 (the latest arrest figures that are available), and approximately 87% of those arrests (658,231) were for simple possession for personal use; they were just marijuana smokers, not traffickers. Another marijuana smoker is arrested every 48 seconds in this country!

    And for each of these unfortunate souls unfairly caught-up in the criminal justice system, the experience is personally frightening and alienating, even if they manage to avoid a jail sentence (and far too many still go to jail).

    But my story is a little different; a story of two old men arrested for sharing a joint at the Freedom Rally, with the court subsequently trying to dismiss the charges, but the defendants demanding to go to trial.

    TO READ THE BALANCE OF THIS COLUMN, GO TO MARIJUANA.COM

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  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel September 2, 2014

    Supreme_Court_BuildingWhen one looks at many other important public policy debates in this country, at some point the courts can and must step in to render a decision that changes the entire debate, and corrects an injustice with the stroke of a pen. In our system of government, the courts have co-equal standing with the legislative and the executive branch, and can overrule an offensive or unfair policy based on Constitutional principles.

    Perhaps the most important example of these modern decisions was Brown v. Board of Education, in 1954, in which a unanimous Supreme Court overruled the separate-but-equal policy of racial segregation in public schools, finding “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal” and declared the policy as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, paving the way for integration. Next came Griswald v. Connecticut, in 1965, when the Supreme Court first identified a Constitutional right to privacy, overturning laws making the use of birth control a crime . Although the Bill of Rights does not explicitly mention “privacy”, Justice William O. Douglas wrote for the majority that the right was to be found in the “penumbras” and “emanations” of other constitutional protections.

    Similarly, in 1967 the Supreme Court struck down state laws known as miscegenation laws, that made it a crime for interracial couple to marry, finding those laws a violation of both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. And in 1973, in Roe v. Wade, the court, based on the right to privacy found in the Fourteenth Amendment, ended the ban on abortions, permitting a women to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy.

    For the rest of this column, please jump to Marijuana.com.

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