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. Me says:

      Disappointing, really disappointing.

    2. gweedo says:

      Definitely a shame, but we can’t fault Judge Mueller. She was in no position to make a political stand by challenging the status quo, and so she took the easy route of sticking to the letter of the law.

      I don’t hold much hope for a successful appeal by the defense because as others have pointed out the prosecution is simply better equipped in this instance.

      On the other hand, I definitely don’t think this is the last we’ll be hearing about this issue in the federal courts. The tides of change are crashing at the government’s gates, and it’s even becoming politically advantageous to be pro marijuana reform.

    3. dax says:

      This is a fail judge with low education skills.

    4. Dave Evans says:

      Even the government’s witness admitted that marijuana is medicine. That wasn’t clear enough. Marijuana users are officially subjects of the US government; everyone else are citizens.

      This judge claims a parent that uses marijuana to help treat their child’s brain cancer is indeed a criminal–and that is nothing short of ridiculously biased claims of snake oil salesmen. We already know marijuana is medicine, but they want to sell us their snake oil, cancer causing chemo instead and it is pathetically transparent.

    5. Patent No. 6630507 held by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services covers the use of cannabinoids for treating a
      wide range of diseases.
      This is a fact.
      It’s undeniable.
      This judge’s decision is suspect to say the least.
      She should be ashamed.

    6. latchkeykid says:

      We the people know cannabis is benificial as medicine, won’t kill you, fun and can be used for many differing things such as food, fuel, clothing and building materials. The medium of media’s psychological damage brigade perpetuated upon the US and the globe through the demonization of cannabis in the early 30’s up until now has embedded itself alongside a strong fear deep within the psyche of humanity. If the judge is still too blind to see even with the simplicity of the facts right before her eyes, the fact that our very own government has a patent on it for medical reasons, the fact that the FDA has recently granted trial tests for medical research on patients, the fact that the NIDA recently associated cannabis with ability to kill deadly brain cancer, the fact that 23 states and our capital have hundreds if not thousands of doctors prescribing cannabis for medicinal reasons, the fact that our very own government produces cannabis in Mississippi and supply’s tin can barrels to patients god-fathered into its program, the fact that tomorrow the state of Georgia’s governor is signing a law allowing CBD oil for a number of ailments like many states have moved to do quickly for the benefit of helping children with epilepsy. The fact that cannabis has never killed one soul on this planet. Yet it’s illegality and unjust classification has ruined countless lives. Countless lives have been ruined and many other lives are still in jeopardy of being ruined due to cannabis prohibition and it’s unjust scheduling.

      I’m sorry your honor, I find it hard to find honor in your decision. Our judicial system has failed us once again. From now until the end of this unruly war on cannabis perpetuated upon the citizens of these United States and abroad we the people must raise our voices in the streets, at our capitol buildings, courts of law, towards our politicians, on social media and end this embarrassing part of our country and world history. We helped to perpetuate it around the world with the skillful help of lies from those we trusted. Now we must undue what has been done. God Speed everyone.

    7. Growyourown says:

      Just another judge toeing the company line. Not quite as unbelievable as the judge who ruled GM not responsible for killing 89 people because they emerged from bankruptcy a different company; (same name, same workers). You and I get the death penalty and a “company” walks? Justice is fleeting today.

    8. Growyourown says:

      Btw, always ask for a trial by jury if you’re in trouble. Better to have 12 people deciding your fate instead of 1.

    9. Joel: the other Joel says:

      This sounds so familiar: “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.”

      I guess the war on marijuana must go on until the federal drug warriors can come up with “peace with honor” solution by providing another crusade against the American citizens with the support of the “silent minority”. I wonder what’s this new doctrine will be named after?

    10. Julian says:

      NORML, we can crowdfund and take this to the Supreme Court!

      Thank you, Paul Armentano for all the vital work you provided. We ‘ve got your back: Let ‘s appeal!

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