Federal Judge Denies Marijuana Descheduling Motion

UPDATE 4/17 – Judge Mueller has issued her ruling in writing.

UPDATE 4:36 PM – The motion is expected to be appealed to the 9th district appellate court.

See a blog post form NORML’s Paul Armentano on the ruling.

See an on-the-scene report from The Leaf Online

April 15 – Judge Kimberly Mueller denied a motion to deschedule marijuana in a Sacramento federal criminal trial this morning.

Although she noted it had been 45 years since scheduling happened and the landscape has changed since then, because the motion challenged a congressional statute, the court has to tread lightly, she said. This is not the court and not the the time, Mueller concluded. The current statute passes muster under the “rational basis” test and it’s for Congress to decide the matter, she said. Mueller doesn’t have the written order finished but it will be out shortly.

“We’re glad that the court heard this matter and hope that Congress will take the issue up,” said Dale Gieringer of California NORML, who has been party to a rescheduling suit in recent years. NORML has been challenging marijuana’s Schedule One status since the 1970s, and Americans for Safe Access has also challenged it, unsuccessfully.

Paul Armentano, NORML’s deputy director who participated in research for the 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 October, Mueller took four days of testimony in the case, United States v. Pickard, et. al.Read more.

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.”

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.

See background.

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