Federal Judge Hears Closing Arguments In Constitutional Challenge To Cannabis’ Schedule I Status

Federal Judge Hears Closing Arguments In Constitutional Challenge To Cannabis’ Schedule I StatusYesterday in Sacramento a federal judge heard closing arguments in a motion challenging the constitutionality of cannabis’ Schedule I classification.

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.

79 thoughts

  1. I’d like to hear what individuals currently in jail feel about being there when their government explains that congress doesn’t have to be “right.”

  2. Marijuana is a smart choice and a very popular one. There’s a good reason for that. Prohibition is not. Nothing good every comes out of marijuana prohibition. Absolutely nothing!

  3. 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 ABSOLUTELY unacceptable.

  4. Hope this helps everything go good for casinos hopefully the mohegans get what they want to make revenue for mohegan sun in CT i feel Indians should have every right to have it legal on there reservation regardless of federal law

  5. “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’.”

    I can’t get over this. Do we really need to stipulate in a legal document such a common sense, self-evident truth as Congress should make an effort with all due diligence to get it right.

    I like the way ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are in quotes, as if they’re only vague notions, too.

    The good news: this asinine assertion is an act of utter desperation.
    The bad news: they just might win with this argument.

  6. NORML says there are no NAZIS in our government. Yeah sure, yet here we have a perfect Nazis’ style defense of undefensible laws and actions by the government. The argument only makes sense if you have a mental disorder like Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (not OCD). I call it the Nazis disorder because when things aren’t in the “correct order” the people suffering from it react almost like they are being physically threatened. They are the racists (for the most part), their broken logic makes all the sense in the world to them. Of course you’re only supposed to be with people of the same color–we’re OCPD! What they think of as “Disorder” is a threat! The fact we have so many of these defective thinkers in our government should scare the general public. “We need Red Light Cameras” even though they don’t make traffic safer and can even increase traffic accidents doesn’t mean anything. They read, “Red Light Cameras can increase traffic accidents”, but still feel more secure asking for more “Red Light Cameras” because, “it will result in safer conditions”. They constantly disassociate from the facts and go with their made up “facts”. Positive Marijuana Laws are a threat to safely–why though? Why do we keep hearing this from people scared of marijuana? I mean really what are they thinking? Jailing innocent people is a good thing? (its the price we have to pay for freedom from evil weed; and pay and pay and pay some more) What is the difference between putting innocence folks away and preforming useless rituals? Are some of our cops really just witch doctors performing spells??? Just like the voodoo priest, do they actually believe their “magic” is going to fix something? That crying wolf about marijuana will help somehow?

  7. Statements like these spoken to exonerate one of responsibility only shows how truely disconnected the elected elite are from morality. To say, “I’m not required to be right”, first of all admits the flaw and secondly denies accountability. These are the juvenile utterings of a idiot. Justice may be blind as it should be, but NO ONE gets to be this obtuse. This job is a sociopath’s dream come true.

    Power and money have replaced honor and pride in politics. Time for change America.

    Our VOTE is the answer.

    Use it !

  8. Yeah!…voting will change everything…but we have been voting for Frick who opposes Frack when in “power” and vice aversa!

    One coin…two sides…never forget that two choices are just one more than one…out of millions and millions of Citizens?

    You can’t vote your way out of an unjust system…it’s simply impossible.

    The corrupted System is the actual problem.

    Don’t follow leaders…follow your conscience?

    Can any reader actually prove their vote was cast/counted as intended?

    How?

  9. The job of the courts is to decide whether the Legislators are following the Constitution in writing laws. The argument is that the courts shouldn’t ‘second-guess’ Congress, even if they aren’t’ right.’ Someone put this orc out of its misery.

  10. Congress cannot be required to be correct. This actually makes sense if you think about it. We can’t have a random judges throwing out federal laws because he thinks the evidence shows a different result from what congress saw. Yes, marijuana should be rescheduled, but we have separate judicial, legislative, and executive branches for a reason. The question isn’t if congress scheduled marijuana wrong, but if the judicial branch has the authority to reschedule it. I don’t see this as working out well.

  11. Disenfranchising the Courts’ right to nullify bad, wrong, or unjust laws, executive orders, etc. would set back womens’ and minority suffrage, equal opportunity and just about anything positive that has arisen from the legal process. This right of the Court is guaranteed by the Constitution. Don’t listen to those who would have you believe otherwise.

  12. Boy,how stupid this congress seems to be taking these these old laws of dis beleif and still trying to take away the greatest plant for medical reasons these people need to go sleep and never waKE lets pray this happens here the real diseases GMO their to stupid to get it right. Over 22 known diseases are caused by GMO SO THAT TO ME SHOULD BE OUTLAWED NOT MARIJUANA IDIOTS WAKE UP THIS IS AMERICA WHERE WERE SUPPOSED TO HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE RIGHT NOT A COMMUNISTIC CONGRESS

  13. I have epilepsy. I also have a 128 IQ. I problems, reading, I did not know why. I got to looking into famous people with epilepsy. I noticed that Albert Einstein had a hard time in high school. I think that epilepsy can also be a reading problem as well as a health problem. I was thinking that marijuana may be the drug that would help a lot on epilepsy and help people with problems, in school, with epilepsy.

  14. They should put HSBC on Schedule 1 – and say no more accepted use for appointment of former HSBC helpers and officials to FBI, Justice, SEC, etc.

  15. “Congress cannot be required to be correct. This actually makes sense if you think about it. We can’t have a random judges throwing out federal laws because he thinks the evidence shows a different result from what congress saw. Yes, marijuana should be rescheduled, but we have separate judicial, legislative, and executive branches for a reason.”

    Yes, we should be having more judges tossing out bullshit laws. Should be something they do more often. Any judge that does their jobs works within the facts of a case gets labeled as “an Activist Judge” by retards that hate justice.

    Ditto for these retarded “Stand your ground laws”. It is already well established you can defend your self when attacked, but these laws say that if someone comes to murder you and you don’t just stand there and let yourself be stabbed or shot, that you fight back, the murder cannot be charged. The law is fucking illegal. Only murder that are “real murders” are where an adult snuffs a child that cannot fight back. Defensive wounds (evidence for murder) can now be used to let a murder off. Judges do need to knock this law down, because it doesn’t make any fucking sense.

  16. @Growyouown

    “Disenfranchising the Courts’ right to nullify bad, wrong, or unjust laws, executive orders, etc. would set back womens’ and minority suffrage, equal opportunity and just about anything positive that has arisen from the legal process. This right of the Court is guaranteed by the Constitution. Don’t listen to those who would have you believe otherwise.”

    Well said. Judicial review.

  17. 23 states have legalized medical marijuana yet it remains a Schedule I drug under federal law. This conflict in federal and state laws is breaking up families, denying long suffering patients, easy access to medical marijuana, driving patients to drug cartels and other illegal sources for marijuana and costing taxpayers millions of dollars. See http://www.freemattdavies.com or http://www.federal-marijuana-laws.com. They need 100K signatures in March. Please help!

  18. Granting cannabis a right to exist in our healthcare industry is going to take popular vote to make significant change today. Lawyers are going to make millions arguing the plants efficacy while fiscal responsibility is handed to another generation of programmed soldiers of ignorance, intolerance, and disrespect.

  19. Another poor bastard got a life sentence for reefer madness. Amazing. It will give him time to contemplate how much he f up.

  20. Noone wants to legalize marijuana because its been illegal for a long period of time, its more of a social issue, people think because its illegal its dangerous, unless they have smoked it they wouldnt really have an understanding of how it could positively effect society, and as of right now its puting money into prisons and law enforcement so there happy to keep it illegal, but if they legalize they could put more money into schools by treating it just like tobacco and alcahol.

  21. B.Zachary, arresting people for profit and not public safety is illegal in the US of A. When are we going to see law enforcement actually follow the laws they use against US??? Putting innocence people in jail is a crime. Slavery was indeed a crime as is using marijuana as an excuse to continue denial of Civil Rights. Marijuana does not take precedence over our Rights; any law enforcement efforts leading in the wrong direction should have been stopped dead in their tracks decades ago.

  22. As others have said, if the system is not afforded judicial review we would still be living in the dark ages.
    Judges have the power to overturn bad law, they do it all the time. There were portions of the Patriot and Military Commissions Acts that were overturned by the supreme court because they were unconstitutional.
    Yes there is a separation of powers for a reason, but judicial review is meant as a check and balance against an over zealous legislative branch.

  23. Sept. 6, 1988: DEA Chief ALJ francis Young on rescheduling:
    “Marijuana in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis, marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care.”
    Reagun ignored this, remember “just say no?” And with Dick Cheyneys assistance, carried on the “war on drugs.”
    They made $$$$ and never felt the impact of their short term greed.
    Shame on Conservatives who moralize. Same as alcohol prohibitionists: moral irrationality is not sustainable.

  24. Thank God a historic day has finally come to florida. after we were shot down in 2014 with a 58% approval for medical I thought the day would never come. But Thank God miracles do still happen. The legislature reconviened this year 2015 and on 03/05/2015 has approved a modified version so that the REAL version of Medical is now approved and in April 15 we can FINNALY get the Medicine we need.!!!!!!

  25. I hope Cannabis will be put to schedule 2 so that I will find it easier to find a job. I am an Legal Medical Cannabis Patient in California. Chronic Pain does not stop me from looking for work, but most companies have pre employment Drug Testing, so must I suffer for a month of not using this increadible Medecine in order to apply for any temp agency job? The Sad answer is probably Yes!!!

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