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Federal Judge: Should Marijuana Be Classified As One Of The Nation’s Most Dangerous Drugs?


afghani marijuana strainBy Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

Testimony 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.

Source: NORML - make a donation


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Johnny Green


  1. Obama does what he is told to do. He is a pawn in the world of the rich and powerful.

  2. I will vaporize a balloon full in your honor. It really helps with the leg and foot pain from neuropathy that opiates don’t seem to touch. I am 80 years old, university educated and my life was massive discomfort. Now that mother nature has intervened things are a lot more pleasant. Several doctors have told me that if it was legal they would prescribe it instead of about twenty other Rx drugs. The government does not really care about your health. The main directive is to fill the treasury coffers.

  3. Our unemployment rate in Colorado just dropped to 5.3% and we have legal weed too. Could that mean that states with more progressive citizens also have more successful economies? By the way, Colorado went for Obama in both elections.

  4. The economies great in Seattle, in fact it’s booming. If someone chooses to live in a backward shithole, one that hasn’t changed since 1956, no President’s going to make life better

  5. It depends on where one lives. If people live in say Bumfluck Mississippi then no it’s not gotten better. It hasn’t gotten better there since the Civil War ended almost 150 years ago

  6. Exactly right. The “unemployment rate” does not include most jobless people that would prefer to be employed. And it certainly doesn’t include the underemployed who are stuck working part time jobs because they can’t find a full time job due to the horrible economy. Joblessness in America is at an all-time high for modern times. Obama has been the worst president in American history and everyone, save a few loony birds, knows it.

  7. It wasn’t until President Obama was elected that I first heard anyone besides Right-Wing spooks, or, a few Texas Kooks, publicly use the term ” labor participation rate”. It’s just another Fox news/ birther/ Obama hater/ talking point. Change the channel.

  8. Pádráig O'Gáirmléadháigh on

    The only prisons that have been closed or “mothballed” are past usage state prisons as private prisons are now taking over Americas 1.5 million prison population, the largest on the entire planet.

    Oh and BTW, 90% of the inmates are “kristisn” and only.09% are atheist which kinda make a mockery of the whole clamour by the christians for the US to become an xtian theocracy….

  9. A total F ing waste of money. F if this country spent the tax money in a sane way we could all have full service health care for free (So to speak) build community centers for children and have free college educations for everyone and restore food stamps to a real program that actually helps low income people eat nutritious meals instead of the sham that it is now and retire our debt with others countries.

  10. The “unemployment rate” is a political campaign talking point – nothing more. The labor participation rate is the only real measure of joblessness.

  11. There are prisons they are closing because they are empty, check out that deal. Oregon comes to mind as where that are closing or have mothballed a prison or two.

  12. Naomi Thompson on

    Caffeine and sugar, tobacco should be on schedule 1 if addiction is the worry. Why do they outlaw addiction? I have a coffee addiction too so is that dangerous?

  13. Naomi Thompson on

    Right, and when I go to ER for migraine they pump me full of morphine and tordal. Then they send me home with a script for vicodin. Hmmmm something smell fishy here?

  14. The use of percentage’s to determine the unemployment rate has been used for years by economist’s in order to gauge the health of the nations economic growth and job market. Getting down into the weeds with contrary numbers is a relatively new right-wing tactic. The bottom line remains that last week the nation’s unemployment rate stood at 5.9%

  15. LSD should not be in Schedule 1 either. Too bad we let our government get away with this shit. Weed shouldn’t even be on the schedule.

  16. That still leaves 253,000 without jobs last week alone!
    U.S. jobless aid applications rise to 283,000 in just last week!

  17. Illegal weed is a Redneck religious bible thumping testosterone charged violent loonies heaven.

  18. No drug in the world is more dangerous than a
    Schedule I drug. Schedule I drugs are so dangerous they are not permitted in any pharmacy or any hospital or even any hospice in America. No physician is permitted to write a prescription for Schedule I drugs–even in the 23 medical marijuana states, physicians only write “recommendations” for marijuana. And marijuana has never killed a single person by overdose or allergic reaction. What nonsense. Oh, right, there is the Gateway Myth that marijuana use will lead to the use of more dangerous substances. Like what, exactly? Heroin and LSD are also examples of Schedule I drugs, so
    they are considered AS dangerous as marijuana, not more dangerous. Cocaine
    and methamphetamine are Schedule II drugs — they are considered LESS dangerous
    than marijuana. Will the courts get it right, even if the other two branches of government cannot?

  19. How bout the fact that the stock market rally has all been a product of the Feds initial 85 billion a month bond buying program which is now being phased out. Hence the latest volitility. The stock market is rigged dude! And the only reason we are still the #1 world economy is that China is slowing drastically and about to experience their own housing crash.

  20. The private prison industry also looks at how well (or badly) students in an area are doing in the THIRD GRADE to determine where to build more prisons. Their logic: undereducated kids=more future crime=more profitable prisons for them. Here’s a better idea you evil c—ksuckers, put the money into SCHOOLS instead!!

  21. Sondra Rene Eisenman on

    Let’s say it is as addictive as they say it as well, ( which it is not as they claim) Still why are we pushing to criminalize addiction? Anyway, the whole thing about drug prohibition is that the criminal justice system is NOT helping a problem that can be help. They bank on the recidivism more than anything . A revolving door with privatized prisons that have created a supply and demand. And most any effort a drug court would do is give them a slim chance and send them back as soon as they fuck up. The idea that jail “ scares a person straight” might be as well as teaching a cat to bark. Which we throw a nonviolent person that is not commiting anyone harm but themselves Help those that want help yet promote the alternatives the ones that don’t and prosecute those that commit violent and destructive crimes towards another person or property. This idea that addicts are just capable of flipping a switch is ignorant.

  22. Here is the info for the woman arguing in favor of continuing to keep marijuana a schedule I drug (just in case anyone was interested):

    Project Director. Bertha K. Madras, Harvard Medical School and New England Regional Primate Research Center, 1 Pine Hill Drive, Southborough, MA, 01772-9102. Tel (508) 624-8073; FAX (508) 624-8166; email:bertha_madras@http://hms.harvard.edu

  23. How and the hell will they say its a dangerous drug when there has not been any overdoses or death on this plant.

  24. I don’t think they will ever give us our freedom to use marijuana. They love the money they make off of raids, jail time , extra … They ruin peoples life for the rest of their lives . Just the way they want it to stay. As long as marijuana stays a crime, I will never feel free in America. Some of us aren’t allowed freedom.

  25. Pádráig O'Gáirmléadháigh on

    The Private Prison Industry wants it kept illegal as it is the easiest way to keep their prison population up and hence profits up…… It also suits their racist hatred and abuse of the Black population

  26. Guess you haven’t seen the labor participation rate. Take a good look at the chart. It’s a far better reflection of joblessness than the so-called “unemployment rate”.


  27. Personally, I have more hope and have seen more positive change than anytime during the Bush years. My younger brother’s healthcare premium has been reduced by a full half due to the ACA. Plus, both he and my sister-in-law no longer have to worry about being excluded due to their pre-existing conditions. The stock market has reached record levels, unemployment is below 6%, and America’s economic growth is outpacing all other Western democracies. Marijuana is legal in my state, now sold in retail recreational stores. Seattle is BOOMING economically. What’s not to like ?

  28. True and the schedule 1 is total moronic. The newspapers need or should run articles on what brought this about in the first place. GREED by money crazy slime.

  29. Don’t hold your breath. Just look at how “hope & change” ruined our economy and our health care.

  30. It’s a small step that will have no meaning unless all of the subsequent steps are taken. But every journey must begin with the first step.

  31. What you say is true. But it’s also true that a lot of people truly do not understand this and in fact think marijuana is in the same league with cocaine, heroine, acid or even glue sniffing. And our federal government’s inaccurate classification doesn’t help. That wall of misinformation is what we need to chip away at.

  32. Two thumbs up! One of the problems is that along with the culture that accepts marijuana, there is a culture that strongly rejects it. It is very much like a brainwash. Many of those opposed see legalization as a defeat of part of their culture that they must fight out of principle. A lot of them will NEVER get past that. But some can get past it if we talk sensibly and caringly to them with the goal of leaving them informed of the truth and comfortable accepting it. It’s not easy and it requires resisting the attempt to scold lest we put them off and they continue to reject. You’ve seen the light, I’ve seen the light, and it’s still possible to shine the light on others.

  33. Not to mention the women that have been raped and beaten by people drunk on Legal Booze and car wrecks and broken alcoholic households. I have never seen or heard of any of this occurring with weed.

  34. Wow I hope the court does rule that it is unconstitutional because that is the reality. This Fact has been ignored for far too long.

  35. Let’s just say for a minute that the war on marijuana isn’t unconstitutional (which it is). And the class 1 on marijuana is justifiable (which it isn’t). The “war” on marijuana is still the most costly, wasteful, terrible, good for nothing law we have because it has FAILED so miserably. It has done nothing at all but waste so many tax dollars and law enforcement resources that their is no way, shape, or form in the matter that says it has done any good. Or been worth it. Weed is everywhere and it just gets bigger. People want legalization now more then ever and just with that alone it make the “war” a failure. Get over it, legalization it and stop the foolish war on marijuana.

  36. By definition, I think alcohol would have to be Schedule 1:”…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.”

  37. I remain hopeful that President Obama will make the rescheduling of cannabis a reality before his term is over.

  38. DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge Francis Young decided this question back in 1988, in favor of rescheduling. The DEA ignored that decision. So, if the DEA has set a precedent that it doesn’t have to abide by the decision of a federal judge, why would they suddenly give up their power now? The DEA answers to no one, and will never willingly submit to any authority. Only the president can force the DEA to act (in theory), and that will never happen. This decision will at best be symbolic.

  39. Weed is a natural drug, unlike a lot of synthesized drugs these days. Cannabis has been used for years with great results to treat many different types of illness/disease. I am a firm believer that the use of marijuana for medical reasons is terrific. Also, for recreational use, marijuana is much less destructive than alcohol. Alcohol is a very addictive very damaging substance when compared with marijuana. I would rather get high, and be able to function at work the next day, than get drunk, and be completely hung over and incapable of doing what i need to do.

    A colleague of mine wrote an excellent book on how medical marijuana can help people with different illnesses. If you want to learn some cool facts about how weed can help you, check it out.


  40. Provided that the right people win this round, this could be the beginning of the end. If the evidence bores out properly (as it should) and the opposition tries to fall back on the old “not enough research” or the “what about the children” or any other severely overused prohibitionists propaganda, the judge will have no recourse than to rule in favor of reclassification.

    So if we win this round, the lawyers batting for prohibition will, of course, appeal the decision and it *WILL* go before the Supreme Court of CA. If we win again, the prohibitionists will appeal again — the next court on the appeal hierarchy is the 9th Federal Court of Appeals, then the SCOTUS.

    I just hope this case is set up in such a way that the judges won’t have a way to weasel around making the decisions they KNOW scientific evidence (and society) supports. That’s what happened with the case over the delayed rescheduling petition that went to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals several years ago. The case was *actually* about the decade-long **DELAY** of the petition to reschedule cannabis, but instead of making the case that the DEA should not be in charge of the petition or rescheduling process (indefinite delay of a federal petition is a 1st Amendment violation — the right to petition to redress grievances is right there at the top of the US Constitution), we tried to argue in court to a panel of judges that the scientific evidence is there to reschedule. Which it is, but the easy-out for the judges on the panel was to throw their arms up and declare themselves “not doctors” and thus, they deferred the classification status to the “experts” at the DEA.

    With that case, we wasted the opportunity to open the gate to rescheduling by attempting to jump right TO rescheduling. We had constitutional grounds to pry the DEA’s slimy hands off the levers that operate the Controlled Substances Act scheduling system by simply demonstrating to the panel that the DEA violated the 1st Amendment right of the petitioners by only evaluating three petitions in as many decades. The DC Circuit Court could have ruled the DEA unfit to evaluate rescheduling petitions with just the simple, broad-stroke evidence — no need for a mountain of scientific studies.

    I probably won’t read the Pickard brief until it moves to the 9th Court of Appeals, but I really do hope the legal team is smarter than the ASA’s legal counsel was back in 2012. It all depends on the specifics of the case. If the case walks like a duck and talks like a duck, argue it’s a duck and you’ll win every time — don’t dress it up and call it an eagle, YOU WILL LOSE. If this case is the magic bullet for rescheduling, by all means, pull the trigger. However, if that’s not at the central CORE of Pickard’s case, arguing for it will go over like a lead balloon in the higher courts.

  41. Cannabis, the whole plant, and not purified, synthesized drugs such as Marinol, should not be on the Controlled Substances List let alone schedule I. A case can be made that it more appropriately should be listed under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994. http://www.fda.(gov)/Food/DietarySupplements/QADietarySupplements/default.htm#what_is. Under this act a dietary, herbal supplement can only be prohibited if it has been proven to be harmful, until then all botanicals are considered “innocent” until proven guilty. Cannabis was declared guilty without a fair, impartial hearing so to speak.

    However, Cannabis has demonstrated its innocence countless times by millions of partakers of it. And beyond that it has of late, in the form of high CBD and THC concentrated oils, healed people (including very young children) of intractable illness and conditions such as Dravets and cancer in a truly astounding manner. And with no harmful side effects, of which no FDA approved drug can match in efficaciousness and safety.

    Cannabis is not a drug, it is a plant; the “herb of herbs,” for the healing and restoration of a sick and damaged world.

  42. After reading the Schedule definitions, I think it should be Schedule V. I have seen people get completely wasted off of Robitussin, & other cough medicines.

  43. Congress members don’t care, nor do members of the Judiciary Committee. They hold the power. It’s not a government “by the people, for the people,” anymore. They, the minority, are against marijuana.
    I am willing to bet this falls on deaf ears & nothing will change. Marijuana will remain a Schedule I drug, which is total B.S.!

  44. Yes, it’s true most are aware that while cannabis is currently a schedule one drug, the US government holds a patent for it medical use, a contradiction that has gotten a lot of mention. What most are not considering is that ol ace in the hole they are holding up their sleeve. If they do reschedule it and admit it has medical use the reschedule will be from a 1 to a 2 which will kill all hope of it ever being legalized for recreational use on a federal level (well at least till all the old rich guys in control die off)

    “Schedule 2 (II) Drugs

    The drug has a high potential for
    abuse. The drug has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the
    United States or a currently accepted medical use with severe
    restrictions. Abuse of the drug may lead to severe psychological or
    physical dependence.”

    Which could dramatically change the way things are headin

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