At issue is whether a rational basis exists for the government’s contention that cannabis is properly designated as a schedule I substance — defined as possessing a “high potential for abuse,” “no currently accepted medical use in treatment,” and “a lack of accepted safety … under medical supervision.” A federal court has not heard evidence on the matter since the early 1970s.
Lawyers for the federal government argue that it is rational for the government to maintain the plant’s prohibitive status as long as there remains any dispute among experts in regard to its safety and efficacy. Defense counsel — attorneys Zenia Gilg and Heather Burke of the NORML Legal Committee — contend that the federal law prohibiting Justice Department officials from interfering with the facilitation of the regulated distribution of cannabis in over 20 US states can not be reconciled with the government’s continued insistence that the plant is deserving of its Schedule I status under federal law.
In October, defense counsel and experts presented evidence over a five-day period arguing that the scientific literature is not supportive of the plant’s present categorization. “Numerous clinical trials have been conducted using whole plant marijuana and have concluded the evidence strongly suggests therapeutic value,” defense counsel affirmed in a written brief filed with the court last month. “Physicians in 23 states and the District of Columbia have been recommending whole plant cannabis for treatment of a myriad of medical conditions. The United States, through SAMHSA (Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of HHS), holds a patent [on the therapeutic utility of the plant.]”
“… It is unimaginable to believe that if heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, or even over-the-counter medications were being distributed in 23 states and the District of Columbia, Congress and the President would abdicate all regulatory authority to those jurisdictions, and then cut off all funds … to intervene in related distribution activities. … Even the most vivid imagination would be hard pressed to reconcile such action with a ‘rational belief’ that marijuana is one of the most dangerous drugs in the nation.”
In a brief filed with the court by the federal government, it contends: “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 Judge is anticipated to rule on defense’s motion within 30 days.
Legal briefs in the case, United States v. Pickard, et. al., No. 2:11-CR-0449-KJM, are available online here.
President Barack Obama signed spending legislation into law on Tuesday that includes provisions limiting the Justice Department’s ability to take criminal action against state-licensed individuals or operations that are acting are in full compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their states.
Specifically, an amendment sponsored by California Reps. Dana Rohrbacher and Sam Farr to the $1.1 trillion spending bill states, “None of the funds made available in this act to the Department of Justice may be used … to prevent … states … from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
Said Farr following Congress’ passage of the legislation: “The federal government will finally respect the decisions made by the majority of states that passed medical marijuana laws. This is great day for common sense because now our federal dollars will be spent more wisely on prosecuting criminals and not sick patients.”
Similar language prohibiting the Justice Department from undermining state-sanctioned hemp cultivation programs was also included in the bill.
Also contained in the appropriations measure is a rider sponsored by Maryland Republican Andy Harris that seeks to limit DC officials’ ability to fully implement a November 2014 municipal initiative depenalizing the personal adult possession and cultivation of cannabis. At this time however, it remains unclear whether the enacted language is written in a manner that can actually do so. On Saturday, The Washington Post reported that DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson “plans to ignore the provision” and that he will “send a bill implementing Initiative 71 to Congress in January for a 30-day review, during which federal lawmakers can veto it or let it stand.” Such a review is necessary before any DC initiative can become law.
Washington DC’s Initiative 71, which was approved by 70 percent of District voters, removes criminal and civil penalties regarding the adult possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and/or the cultivation of up to six plants.
Federal Omnibus Includes Amendment to Prohibit DOJ/DEA From Interfering With State Medical MarijuanaDecember 9, 2014
The final version of the House omnibus appropriations bill includes the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which was approved by the House of Representatives earlier this year. The amendment restricts the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from using taxpayer funds to interfere in state-sanctioned medical marijuana programs in the 20+ states that have enacted them.
NORML supporters have rallied in favor of this provision, with over 22,000 emails and countless direct calls being directed at federal lawmakers regarding the amendment this year.
“This amendment is an important step towards relieving the tension between federal and state policy when it comes to medical marijuana,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “By restricting these agencies in this manner, the nearly two dozen states that implemented medical marijuana programs can hopefully breathe easier knowing federal money won’t be spent to interfere with their progress. We hope this leads to further reforms at the federal level further enshrining this sentiment into law.”
The House is expect to hold a final vote on this bill in the next couple of days, with a Senate vote to follow. You can read the full bill here.
Adding to his ever-growing series of pro-cannabis law reform song parody videos, as well as in support of his home state’s current efforts to pass a medical cannabis initiative, comedian and Miami Beach political gadfly Steve Berke has just released a new pro-pot parody based on the famous movie of the 1970s ‘Grease‘.
Upping the ante in Berke’s video productions, his talented crew drove from Florida to Texas, in search of the original amusement park backdrop used for the 1978 movie production of ‘Grease’.
“You’re The Law That I Want!”
A more heartfelt and satirical political advertisement in support of passing the voter ballot initiative question in Florida this fall, Amendment 2, is hard to envisage.
For more information about Steve Berke’s 4TT production company and make donations to run 30 second version of the Grease parody on Florida TV stations check out press release below.
PRESS CONTACT: Lee Molloy
September 15, 2014
For Immediate Release
Miami Beach politician drives 1,400 miles to Texas to shoot “Grease” parody video supporting the legalization of medical marijuana in Florida
Founded by former Miami Beach mayoral candidate Steve Berke, The After Party PAC is a political organization fighting to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. Advocating for a ‘Yes’ vote on Amendment 2, The After Party recently commissioned a shot-for-shot parody video of the song “You’re the One that I Want” from the movie “Grease.”
Called “You’re the Law that I Want (Yes on 2)” the musical parody faithfully recreates the carnival scene made famous by John Travolta and Olivia Newton John – with Berke taking on the role of Travolta.
The original Fun House used as a location in the ’70s movie classic was in service at a county fair in Texas this summer. So, Berke and the production crew traveled the 1,400 miles from Miami Beach to Decatur (in an RV) especially for the two-day shoot.
“Our crew drove half way across the country because we wanted to make this parody as authentic as possible,” Berke said. “We felt compelled to really go to bat for the 1.1 million Floridians who signed the petition to get medical marijuana on the ballot this November.”
Berke is a former professional tennis player who found marijuana after herniating two discs in his lower back. The injury permanently ended his tennis career and Berke, an athlete and Yale graduate, realized that marijuana wasn’t just for stoners when his doctor in California recommended trying medical marijuana to manage his pain as an alternative to dangerous prescription drugs.
“Ultimately, all we are asking for is that people in Florida have the same opportunity that I had to get the medicine they need,” Berke said. “And, our video gets that message across in a way that is fun, informative and memorable.”
The passage of state laws legalizing the physician-recommended possession and consumption of cannabis by qualified patients has not led to an increase in adolescents’ use of the plant, according to a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research – a non-partisan research organization based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Investigators from the University of Colorado at Denver, the University of Oregon, and Montana State University assessed federal data on youth marijuana use and treatment episodes for the years 1993 to 2011 – a time period when 16 states authorized medical cannabis use.
Authors reported, “Our results are not consistent with the hypothesis that the legalization of medical marijuana caused an increase in the use of marijuana among high school students. In fact, estimates from our preferred specification are small, consistently negative, and are never statistically distinguishable from zero.”
A separate analysis published in April in the Journal of Adolescent Health similarly determined, “This study did not find increases in adolescent marijuana use related to legalization of medical marijuana. … This suggests that concerns about ‘sending the wrong message’ may have been overblown.”
Full text of the study, “Medical marijuana laws and teen marijuana use,” is available online here.