A federal judge in California has passed on a chance to strike marijuana from the list of the most dangerous controlled substances.
U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller ruled Wednesday that marijuana’s Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act is constitutional after considering extensive hearings on the matter.
“At some point in time,” Judge Mueller said, according to The Leaf Online, “a court may decide this status to be unconstitutional. But this is not the court and not the time.”
The judge allowed the hearing in response to a motion in the case U.S. v. Schweder, in which 16 people were charged with conspiracy to grow marijuana. One of the defendants asked the judge to dismiss the charges based on the grounds that cannabis should not be on Schedule I.
This was the first time that observers could point to that a judge has ever held a hearing on the constitutionality of marijuana’s scheduling.
Mueller acknowledged that the landscape around cannabis has changed in the 45 years since it was criminalized, but ultimately decided it was not her place to undo the classification. “The statute passes muster,” she said. “The questions raised by the defense are for Congress to resolve.”
Her written opinion will be published later in the month.
Schedule I categorizes marijuana as a drug of abuse with no accepted medical use, and not safe to use even under medical supervision. Other substances listed under Schedule I include opioids such as heroin, and numerous psychedelics like LSD and mescaline.
However, medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996 and is currently permitted in 23 states and counting. Patients have successfully used cannabis for decades now to treat pain, nausea, seizures and symptoms of other ailments including cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and glaucoma. Even the federal National Institute on Drug Abuse now acknowledges the promise of marijuana extracts in treating cancer.
Although the judicial branch of the government declined this opportunity to bring federal drug laws more in line with reality, the executive and legislative branches could both act to remedy the dissonance. The Drug Enforcement Agency announced last year that it would investigate the possibility of removing marijuana from Schedule I, and Congress is currently considering a bill to push it back to Schedule II.
California NORML Director Dale Gieringer indicated that the group would try to appeal the judge’s ruling sometime next year.
“While we are disappointed with this ruling, it changes little,” said Paul Armentano, NORML’s deputy director. “We always felt this had to ultimately be decided by the 9th Circuit and we have an unprecedented record for the court to consider.”
For now, patients and advocates can only wait. “Real harms will continue to be done to our people as a result of the DEA’s misclassification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug. I do not think her ruling lives up to the facts offered in this hearing,” Leaf Onlineco-founder Chris Conrad said in the blog’s coverage of the trial. “The American people deserve better.”