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

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.

127 thoughts

  1. The “war on drugs” is not a war on drugs, it is a war on people. For the drugs do not get punished. Why do they feel the need to “save” us from ourselves? After all, it is your choice to use, and that choice has no direct affect on another’s life, health or liberty.

  2. I think the people of these United States should finally get a backbone and do something with the government. they’ve been screwing the pooch for way too long now! they work for us! does anyone here on this site go into work until his or her boss what to do? I think not! the entire place needs to quit being a large and gigantic pussy and stand up for peace and love! before it’s too late if it isn’t already!

  3. Will they just get another Judge to overrule if it don’t go the prohibitionists way, like they did when Judge Young ruled. Anything other than schedule 1 and the gates are opened!!! Gonna see a lot of changes real soon so hold on tight!!!

  4. People, this is a Federal court case that was only heard because we are about to cross the threshold of +%50 of the U.S. population with pro marijuana legislation allowing this case to be heard by the Supreme Court when it is appealed, as surely the U.S. government will do.
    The very premise of the drug scheduling system is in question here, and all the defense has to do is maintain Constitutional grounds and not counterclaim for collateral to get marijuana rescheduled. Well, that, and have an army of awesome lawyers funded by NORML to back this case up in court.
    You tube one of our lawyers here, “Zenia Gilg.” She has been eloquently advocating sensible marijuana legislation and treatment over incarceration for a long time. We have real gem on our side.
    THANK YOU Zenia for helping everyone who has donated on this blog get that warm fuzzy feeling in our gut. And I’m not just talking about the weed…

  5. A democracy is for the majority, guess what? with 58 percent, we are now the majority. This is why politicians are changing their tune in favor of legalization. Holder’s statement to Couric is the government admitting they are now ready to consider this. Please remember, these are laws requiring change, and every change in law must go through due process. It is never as simple as “Oh, one state legalized medical marijuana, well, the cat’s outta the bag.” Oh, and as for “I think the people of these United States should finally get a backbone and do something with the government…” What do you think we HAVE been doing since 1996 (concerning legalization, that is)?? This is excellent news!!

  6. If you are found with marijuana, you are charged with a felony. No matter how it got there or who it belongs to. That is how Nixon and the DEA wants it. That is how they want to keep it with no change in the law. What a plan!

  7. This should be a slam dunk for patients, in light of the government’s own FDA approval of THC compounds based drugs, such as Marinol, etc.

  8. This will be great for medical patient who will no longer fear the DEA coming after them for using cannabis for debilitating conditions. This will also pave the way for more legalization at state levels. Big marijuana may not be far behind.

  9. If the Schedule I status of cannabis is voided for the federal level then it is illegal for police to enforce laws based on its Schedule I status, regardless of whether for medical or adult recreational purposes. The states can still have cannabis in Schedule I. Medical marijuana states will likely have already removed it from the stats schedule I, and now they can remove it altogether for adult recreational with the federal Schedule I status voided. Until another federal court undoes it. This is something to watch how it plays out.

  10. Aloha. This is exciting and timely. We wish them total success.

    Coincidentialy, on October 30th the appeal brief from my wife and I is due to be filed in the Ninth Circuit Court. We’re appealing four motions that were denied us in hearings including:

    1. mis-classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance

    2. wiretaps were unnecessary because we were so open and honest about what we were doing for 10 years in our THC Ministry

    3. we were denied a Religious Freedom Restoration Act defense, and

    4. the RFRA is “void for vagueness” for Cannabis sacrament as compared to the Controlled substances Act’s total prohibition

    We had a hearing on misclassification, but our federal Judge Leslie Kobayashi cut it very short to keep-out most of our planned content from witnesses who made the trip here. What a rip-off and disappointment that hearing was. Here’s to better days …

    In 2013 my wife Share and I were ruled to be “sincere” and “legitimate” religious users of Cannabis sacrament, and that “the government substantially burdened our legitimate religious practices”.

    Then our judge ruled that the government had a “compelling interest” in arresting us and closing-down our 10 year old THC Ministry, and she ruled that the government used the “least restrictive means” in dealing with us … then she denied our use of a religious defense.

    We won a motion for a defense of entrapment by estopple because the judge accepted my declaration that our former U.S. Attorney for Hawai’i Ed Kubo told me twice to my face that I could operate the THC Ministry without federal interference. The D.E.A. Agent in Hilo Jesse Fourmey told me that I could operate the THC Ministry, the local HPD told me that they knew we were legitimate and we could distribute Cannabis to our members; “just keep it private”, etc., etc.

    Now we’re in the final few days of writing our appeal brief and looking for last-minute content, exhibits, testimony, etc.

    Thanks for publishing this timely and important article.

    All the best to everyone,

    Roger & Share Christie



  11. P.S. We declined to use the defense of entrapment by estopple because our lawyers told us that it was ANOTHER ‘trap’. :-O

    We were told that our judge would grant a hearing on the motion, but that she would almost certainly declare all the testimony and evidence to be “inadmissable” in her instructions to the jury.

    At that point we would have to go to trial with zero defense, be guaranteed a conviction and sentenced to 12 felonies instead of 1. The “conditional” plea deal we were offered started to look reasonable by comparison and the better way to go.

    What a GIANT criminal enterprise the US government has been … with a ‘happy face’ on the front door. Here’s to better days ahead.

    God, that’s great! Please show us the blessings in THIS situation … and hurry! We are safe, we are loved and all is well.



  12. The people do what the Govt says because the Gov is really rich, having taken our tax dollars, and they control the police and military. They have lots of expensive weapons, prisons, and etc. On top of that, they have written the laws in such a way as to make it almost impossible for us to change it without their help/permission.

    We the People have little power compared to them.

  13. it is a harmless plant that benefits the human population. It is also a alternate and viable food source, as hunters and gatherers we used to eat the cannabis leafs and seeds. Our bodies have a cannabinoid processing system and with out the cannabis our body is not whole and healthy. This is why we have the explosion of cancers, diseases, seizures and other autoimmune diseases.

  14. Cannabis shall be removed from CSA “Schedule I”, and placed in “CSA Subchapter I, Part A, §802. Definitions, paragraph (6)”, appended to the list “distilled spirits, wine, malt beverages, or tobacco”, where it will STILL be the least-toxic in the category [by several orders of magnitude].

    In other words, EXEMPT from CSA scheduling.

    Anything short of THAT is UNACCEPTABLE.

  15. Cannabis shall be removed from CSA “Schedule I”, and placed in “CSA Subchapter I, Part A, §802. Definitions, paragraph (6)”, appended to the list “distilled spirits, wine, malt beverages, or tobacco”, where it will STILL be the least-toxic in the category [by several orders of magnitude].

    In other words, EXEMPT from CSA scheduling.

    Anything short of THAT is UNACCEPTABLE.

  16. The participants are still arguing the SMOKE SCREENS INSTEAD OF EXPOSING THE TRUTH/OBVIOUS REASONS that the CANNABIS PLANT does not belong ANYWHERE on the Controlled Substance Act.
    1). It only got on there because one corrupt man, Harry Anslinger, was a sore loser on his Unconstitutional 1937 Marijuana Tax Act and lost so in 1969 in U.S. vs. Timothy Leary. He turned around and became D.E.A. in 1970 and personally stuck in on Schedule 1.
    2). How corrupt/not in good faith this act was is OBVIOUS by the fact that he/the D.E.A. has given pharmaceutical’s the pleasure of having their SYNTHECIZED/PATENTED cannabis (i.e. “Marinol”) on Schedule 3 of the Controlled Substances Act, which admits the cannabis has medicinal value and no risk of addiction.

    The fight over control of this plant is, and always has been, because of its VALUE!

  17. It’s SO SIMPLE: We the People are entitled to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The only exceptions to this is if the “common welfare” is at stake. EVERY study and ALL evidence throughout time has supported that cannabis is of great value and of no negative consequence to the common good.

  18. …As the above reader said, Conservative Judge Francis Young conducted an investigation on this in 1988, which concluded that govt. had no business intervening with rights to cannabis. Also, Nixon did his investigation into the same, i.e. done by the Shaffer Commmitte, who ALSO CONCLUDED that this valuable plant is harmless and that govt. therefore has NO BUSINESS intervening with We the People’s rights to be free with this plant…

    To the Reader who asks what result a positive outcome of this hearing would be: If the state concludes that it shouldn’t be on Schedule 1, then it will be the LEGAL OBLIGATION OF OUR STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Kamala Harris) to fight for our rights to cannabis under state law.

  19. So if they do rule in favor of eliminating the schedule one status even to say a schedule 2 which we all know it shouldn’t even be scheduled at all. Then what happens? Do we slowly wait for all the states to legalize individually?

  20. I would like to add a suggestion HOW about a volunteer ID card that blocks the identified user from purchacing alcohol per personal request along wth small towns an districts allowed the individual rights to banish alc. from wthin smaller jurisdictions

  21. thus id wull alloweated thence person to deside sobriety in a more appropriation of individual truth an freedoms request in preventative maintenances programs

  22. (1) Herb Al-tree-ism

    (2) Cannabis Contributes to Climate Conservation thru Fair Foliage Reforestation

  23. Update:
    Looks like the testimony will drag into Thursday.
    Dr. Madras says marijuana is not medicine.
    Dr. Phillip Denny says “nonsense.”
    The basis of our NORML lawyer’s defense, Dr. Zenia Gilg, is that new evidence of marijuana’s medical efficacy grounds scheduling laws under the Controlled Substance Act as unconstitutional.
    This is a Federal criminal case against seven men growing marijuana on national forest land in Trinity and Tehama counties in eastern California.
    Attorney Gilg states that the criminal charges pertaining to the use of the crop are irrelevant if the laws that schedule marijuana are unconstitutional.
    Judge Mueller, the first female Federal judge appointed in the region by President Obama in 2010, has allowed the evidence from the defense, which will conclude Dr. Denny’s testimony tomorrow starting at 9 a.m. Sounds like the trial may end just before Halloween. Trick or treat!

  24. Correction: “Attorney Zenia Gilg,” not “Dr.” There’s so many doctors on the defense, Zenia may as well be a doctor, in my opinion. 🙂

  25. Even if they decide it’s not schedule 1, it’s still a state law. Indianapolis won’t change it’s law.

  26. Why is attorney Lawrence Hirsch’s federal case, which bore precisely the same level of evidenciary hearing, being overlooked? Mr. Hirsh spent upwards of a half million dollars, flying some two dozen witnesses, to testify in person, before a federal judge, in Philadelphia, just a decade, ago. Why are all of the Law Professors also missing this, when quoted, in the media? Much more important, yet – is to consider, why, it’s neglected, to be entered, in these cases, that the substance of the original document, itself, is “marihuana.” The Declaration of Independence, and, the very oil on canvas paintings in the court’s halls, also, are, “marihuana.” This should bear the potential to preclude the CSA, in its entirety; neverminding mere ‘reclassification’. Is Lawrence Hirsh, Esq., having a bird, or, what? I’d expect him to be calling NORML, and, all of the Professors, media, etc – his case proves these professionals, wrong, when it’s their job to reference such previous cases.

  27. Bear with my lackluster verbose, but I read somewhere that the presiding justice is retired… can his decision really change anything directly? or will his decision only inspire more media coverage of America’s weakness for years to come?

  28. Will Supreme Court Footnote Lead To Rescheduling Marijuana? 2

    “Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the opinion for a 6-3 majority in the 2005 case of Gonzalez v. Raich. To the dismay of marijuana advocates who see medical marijuana as a state issue, the Court ruled that the Constitution’s Commerce Clause gives Congress the authority to prohibit marijuana even in states with medical cannabis laws. A footnote in the opinion, however, left the issue open to further examination; or so says U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller.”

    does this information correlate at all?

  29. Collaborate, with the official archivists: conclusively establish, up through the court system, that the Constitution itself is Cannabis Sativa fiber. It’s the original draft, that is, of course. This should have been done, long before Nixon’s CSA.

  30. I hope that the fact that there are still 4 people receiving joints from the feds(1 agent orange case I know of) and Medicare pays for Marinol will come up during this testimony

  31. If i were a hemp harvester
    And she were a lady…
    Shed marry me anyway;
    Shed have my baby…

    If i worked my hands in hemp,
    Stoned buildin houses
    She’d make me tax-exempt
    Off what she arouses

    Save your bud through loneliness
    Save your bud through sorrow
    Baby you’re my onlyness
    Show me your tomorrow

    If i were a pharmacist
    Stone pistol a grindin
    My lips she woulda kist
    While my stash a findin…

    If i were an investor
    Investin in marijuana
    Wouldnt had any lest’a her
    Hot boiled in a sonna

    Save your love through loneliness
    Save a stash through sorrow
    She gave me her onlyness
    I gave her my tommorrow…


  32. http://theleafonline.com/c/politics/2014/10/norml-feds-agree-benefits-cannabis/

    Here’s NORML’s Link to the latest highlights before Dr. Mad-@$$-Madras drags the governments testimony through Thursday.

    The latest: A U.S. attorney representing the U.S. government unwittingly admitted that marijuana is medicine in order to boost marinol as “lasting longer.” Big Pharma shoots itself in the foot just trying to sell some marinol? What was going through this attorney’s brain at the time these words came out of his mouth? Read this:

    The third day of hearings on the constitutionality of cannabis’ federal Schedule I status presented further bizarre twists, as both federal prosecutors and NORML’s defense team appeared at times to agree on the medical benefits of cannabis.

    “In one early incident, Assistant US Attorney Richard Bender, in continued cross-examination of Dr. Philip Denney, failed to rebut Denney’s testimony that plant-based cannabis effectively treated chronic pain. Instead, Bender attempted to show a marginal benefit to using dronabinol (AKA Marinol, which is synthetic THC taken orally in pill form) compared to cannabis and at one point seemed to get a little carried away with his line of questioning. Directing Denney’s attention to the results of a study which showed that both cannabis and Marinol proved effective in treating chronic pain but that the effects of Marinol lasted longer, Bender asked, “So, both smoked marijuana and oral THC were effective, but Marinol was a little better because it lasted longer?”

    Mmmmmm… the bittersweet taste of hubris… It reminds me of the story I read to my children from little Golden Books about the little puppy carrying a steak in his mouth. When crossing a bridge the puppy looks at his own reflection, sees another dog with a steak in his mouth, BARKS at it, then looses the steak in the river. Bye Bye Steak. Bye Bye Prohibition.



    Denney answered yes, and Bender continued, apparently unaware that he had just admitted that cannabis has medical value.”

  33. When will it start? How will it start? Who will start it? How will it end?

    What am I talking about? The next American Revolution.

    How much longer will people take what our own government is doing to us? For more than 30 years I have been saying, “If a foreign country was doing to us what our government is doing to us we would be at war.”

    I am not going to re-cap all the things that the Federal Government has done to us, is doing to us and will be doing to us in the future but when will the American people reach the breaking point and take action? Our government is like a runaway train that is going to crash. It is just a matter of when, not if unless something is done.

    Ronald Reagan reminded us that freedom CAN be lost when he said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

    I fear we are the generation that is going to let Reagan down and let freedom extinguish in our time. Every day we lose more and more freedoms. It is a gradual decay and this is on purpose in the hopes that “We the People” won’t notice it or won’t care until it is too late to change anything.

    We have a wonderful gift in this country that was given us by the Founders. They risked their fortunes and their very lives to give us what we have and today it seems no one cares if we throw it all away. Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and the others would be so disappointed in us.

    Yes, there is still hope to restore our country to what it once was but time is running out quickly. Think about the risk the founders took? They were under the rule of the King of England and the strongest military in the world but the lure of freedom and individual liberty drove them to do something the world had never seen before.

    The concept that Americans have the right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” and that these rights were given not by a King or government that could take them away, but by God and are inalienable was unique in human history. Never had such a document as the Declaration been produced and never has once since.

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
    of corse by happiness I mean weed but among othere thing the government as I said earlier if any othere country treated us like our government does wed be fighting but becuas ewe let them make us belive that there helping us we allow it because hey he was better than the last president/ congressman/ senator/mayor but really al they do is restrict us we must rebel and take a stand for this generation b4 its late

  34. What about the movie just came out called kill the messagenger explain how our goverment is the one running the show I didn’t realize in USA are the control of cartel look who talking and why we allow 75,000 pounds of sugar that is one most dangerous than cannabis doesn’t make sense anymore

  35. She is not always green
    Nor hardly kind
    But everytime leaves my eyes a gleam

    From a perfect seed
    She comes to my aid
    Helping with that smokable weed

    Finding a new version of this life
    That until now was doomed to fail
    So take me home my sweet green wife…

  36. Hearing closed at noon yesterday. Testimony is over. Exhibits and objections have been ordered by Judge Mueller for Nov. 7th. She set a control date for Nov. 17th.
    The evidence is clearly on the side of the defense. We will see on the 7th how Judge Mueller rules on the marinol blunder. Happy halloween everybody! Anyone gonna dress up as Dr. Mad@$$ Madras? (Or perhaps a corrupt social worker from Washington DC?)

  37. Hello Julian,

    I’m very worried that the federal anti-marijuana culture in our government will guide her decision making process.

    The is literally what is has become. Taking away marijuana user’s rights is their past time, a good way to make money and not have to work for it. Just steal like a bunch of gangsters. Judges have been rubber stamping this thievery for decades and there isn’t any reason she would decide any different. In their world, you make marijuana safer by turning it into a pill. How can you convince someone of the truth when they truly do love the lies?

  38. Good Luck, @Christie(‘)s, oh yes Roger could you move to N. J. and run for Governor?

    Note 1973 prejudicial performance by Judge Kobayashi, which based on my perspective about the need to substitute vaporization and one-hitters for “$moking”, traces to a tragic “cultural” destiny that is particularly applicable to those of Japanese heritage. After World War Two, U.S. Capitalism showed humongous “generosity” to the recovering Japanese population provided it agreed to get hooked on H-ot B-urning O-verdose M-onoxide nicotine tobacco $igarettes. By the 80’s Raygun-infested addictive nicotine slavery empire days while the percentage of US adults hooked on $igarettes was over 40%, in Japan it was over 60%.

    How, you ask, did they also achieve a highest or near-highest ranking for life expectancy?”

    a. They smoked fewer $igs per addict than US $mokers

    b. They used “holders”– Shunichi Suzuki is seen in a photo holding one 3 inches long with about an inch of $igarette sticking out, and he lived to 99 years, 3 months and 8 or 9 days.

    c. There is a wrought-metal mini-pipe, the KISERU, in which (if you use a screen) 25-mg single tokes are possible, though part of a $ig can be propped in it as well. You can slip a foot of flexible drawtube over the suck-end for maximum modern single toke efficiency.

    For decades Japanese cultural habits were pro-$ig, anti-cannabis because a monster $ig empire grew up in Japan comparable to Philip Moredeath et al. with the same fear the cannabis would replace tobacco and one-hitters would replace the profitable $igarette.

    Therefore Judge Kobayashi’s verdicts are suspect of prejudice on grounds of cultural Tobackgo oops sorry back ground.

  39. PS the Little Golden Puppy with a steak in its mouth– updated interpretation might be: two dogs were fighting over the meat and a Third Dog picked it out and ran away with it! Big pHARMa and Big 2WaqkGo both know that story, and they’re both afraid legalized cannabis is a Big New Third Dog– REPLACE profitable $igarettes, PREVENT lucrative illne$$es.

    Please @Daniel, don’t get carried away with that Reagan crap, “freedom must be fought for” (army? guns? obey command?). Liberty is created through work, not fighting.

    Substitute the rhyming keyword “bought” for “fought” and you see what it’s aiming to do– $ell more stuff to ignorant fozos who don’t know what their dynamic Unconscious is up to.

    Alleged “non-smoker” Reagan worked $$ for tobacco advertisers promoting Nigotine $lavery since 1937 at WHO Des Moines (Postcard with pipe-in-mouth photo, “Yours for Kentucky Club– Dutch Reagan”).

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