With one of the more intrepid strategies the cannabis community has seen, a group of defendants in California are looking to redefine the terms of their criminal charge for growing marijuana on national forest land. They are questioning the constitutionality of cannabis’s classification as a Schedule I controlled substance, and a federal judge in Sacramento has agreed to allow the defense to present “new scientific and medical information” that could support their claim, in a hearing that started last Friday and will continue into tomorrow.
Since the 1970s, cannabis has been categorized, along with heroin and MDMA, as a Schedule I substance. This title is reserved for the “the most dangerous drugs,” with no accepted medical use and a high potential for dependency. While the DEA denied a petition to reclassify marijuana in 2011 and the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal challenging the DEA last year, defense attorney Zenia Gilg, a member of the NORML legal committee, now has a chance to convince U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller that cannabis does not fit the bill for Schedule I. And, if Mueller agrees that marijuana’s status is based on inaccurate information, it could mean that harsh prosecution of cannabis cases is unconstitutional.
Though such a ruling would pertain only to the defendants in this particular case, the broader implications could be substantial; Ladybud predicts that it could be “the beginning of the end of federal marijuana prohibition.” It’s already a win inasmuch as the judge agreed, despite prosecutor’s protests, to allow the hearing to proceed; this is certainly the first time we can remember that a judge was open to considering the issue. But with such a high legal standard to meet, it’s too soon to celebrate. The SF Gate reports: “As Gilg acknowledges, it will not be an easy case to win. She and her colleagues must prove not merely that the federal law is misguided, based on current research, but that it is entirely irrational.”
WRK, of course, can’t help but wonder what Eric Holder thinks about all this. Any chance he’ll be asked to take the stand to testify for the defense?
We’ll update as news become available. If you want to follow the testimony, CANORML posts daily updates from the hearing.