Federal Judge Upholds Schedule I Classification Of Cannabis

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 15, 2015

    A federal judge today denied a motion challenging the constitutionality of cannabis’ classification as a Schedule I prohibited substance without any accepted medical utility.

    Judge Kimberly J. Mueller of the Federal District Court in Sacramento, California issued her oral ruling during a 15-minute court hearing today. Judge Mueller heard closing arguments in the case in early February but had postponed her decision on several occasions. Her written opinion is not yet available but is expected to be posted publicly by week’s end.

    “At some point in time, a court may decide this status to be unconstitutional,” Judge Mueller said from the bench. “But this is not the court and not the time.”

    Defense counsel intends to appeal the ruling.

    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. Lawyers for the federal government countered 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 — 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 can not be reconciled with the government’s continued insistence that the plant is deserving of its Schedule I status under federal law.

    Paul Armentano, NORML’s deputy director who served as the principal investigator for defense counsel in this case said: “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, it contended: “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 added: “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.”

    Said Armentano, “The continued Schedule I classification of cannabis, in 2015, in self-evidently ridiculous. But unfortunately, the law may be ridiculous and still pass constitutional muster.”

    He added, “The judge in this case missed a golden opportunity to demand that federal law comport with available science, public opinion, and common sense.”

    Legal briefs in the case, United States v. Schweder, et. al., No. 2:11-CR-0449-KJM, are available online here.

    102 responses to “Federal Judge Upholds Schedule I Classification Of Cannabis”

    1. Phil says:

      Stone age thinking

    2. trojan72 says:

      So , I wonder how much palm greasing was necessary for judge Mueller to uphold the unconstitutionality of cannabis scheduling classification?

    3. fed up says:

      Just another case of a judge that’s too much of a coward to follow facts and logic. way to pad your pockets with false crimes. there is no reason to thank a judge for hearing a case. its her damn job. which she only half asses. Its lazy pocket trolls like her that have ruined the system to begin with

    4. Ned says:

      “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.

      It is reasonable to counter argue that they could not have rationally believed that cannabis prohibition would advance its interest in health and welfare. The policy had already been to put to test with alcohol prohibition. It failed completely, and cannabis prohibition has failed equally as completely. I believe many in Congress are familiar with the aphorism regarding doing things over and over and expecting different results, they mention it regularly. It’s brought up to point out irrational expectations or behaviors by opposition members.

      It sounds like the government argued that it is constitutional for congress to be wrong but not irrationally so. To which I say here is an example of being irrationally so, despite the disagreement of (so called) experts.

      I would also argue that nowhere does it say Congress is Constitutionally bound to listen to expert advice, and even if it did, the idea that such advice cannot be parsed by courts is absurd once it is reasonably demonstrated that Congress has acted irrationally.

    5. TheOracle says:

      While I was hoping Mueller would have a pro-legalization decision, it doesn’t surprise me one iota that she upheld prohibition. It’s the same old story while such people are in their installed office, and then after they are out of office, retired, whatever they come out in favor of legalization. Former Mexican presidents do it all the time.

      It’s that whole international WHO schedule and the international treaties shit. The American people will simply have to keep ignoring the illogical bullshit that the feds because WHO won’t reschedule and so the feds won’t reschedule, and everybody’s too fuckin’ lazy to do the work necessary to petition the Secretary General, and the dicks in WHO itself are just doing as little as possible in order to keep collecting a paycheck.

      There’s the interlocking cannabis as the new Jim Crow to keep basically a permanent underclass generation after generation that lives in the inner cities and resorts to violence to settle disputes. The military part of the complex needs there to be poor people used to violent acts to direct their skills in the name of big profits for the defense contractors and their shareholders to use to go abroad and ensure profits. Note how the VA is underfunded, and can’t keep up with taking care of veterans properly. I heard the latest VA scandal about the Philadelphia VA audit where they were changing the dates and there was something like a year backlog for patients.

      How will there be a permanent underclass when we abolish the new Jim Crow, legalize cannabis? Where will the violent youths desperate to escape poverty come from to enlist in the all volunteer armed forces?

      Now it’s up to Congress and the CARER law. Congress is a do nothing body whenever it comes to anything pro-cannabis, and I’ll be amazed if they actually take any kind of action to move legalization forward soon. They’re more likely to stretch it out and put the issue off to maximize election donations.

      Mueller, I’m so disappointed in you, yet not surprised. You could have gone down in history on the right side, the correct side of the cannabis issue, but you took the low road, easy way out, servile compliance. Shame on you.

      [Paul Armentano responds: The Judge has yet to issue her written ruling so we can only speculate as to her reasoning. That said, she acknowledged from the bench that our witnesses were credible which infers that had strict scrutiny been employed rather than rational basis we may have had a different outcome. The rational basis burden is exceptionally low and the government argued that the mere fact that a single credible expert would support keeping cannabis as Schedule I would thus make the federal law rational.]

    6. Closet Smoker says:


    7. Wm says:

      Well when you don’t have to be right in a decision and you still have it go in your favor, I think we have more problems with our courts than with cannabis. This isn’t weighing evidence it’s personal choice.

    8. Gutter butter says:

      I think all those postponements just gave more opportunity for the bad guys to pay her off. My heart sunk when I saw this, but looking at the big picture I really don’t think this will matter. Momentum is still in our favor and people will continue to open their eyes.

    9. J.O.B says:

      Two words on this judges mind: Job Security

      Two more words on this judges mind: Career Suicide.

    10. chip r says:

      Hey lady judge grow some balls & make a fair decision.It feels like the Republicans whispered in your ear.