U.S.: Spineless Federal Judge Declines To Remove Marijuana From Schedule I List
By Steve Elliott
If you've ever doubted that the deck is stacked, you can safely lay those doubts to rest. A federal judge in California on Wednesday unexplainably declined to remove marijuana from a list of the most dangerous drugs, ignoring all evidence to the contrary.
U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller issued the nonsensical ruling in response to a motion by defense lawyers to dismiss charges in a case the authorities claim involves a marijuana growing operation, reports Don Thompson at the Associated Press.
Marijuana's classification as a Schedule I drug under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act means the U.S. federal government officially considers cannabis to be roughly on par with heroin (also on Schedule I) in terms of danger. Schedule I drugs are considered to have no accepted medical uses and a high potential for abuse.
It was the first time in decades that a federal judge seriously considered marijuana's classification. To rule that cannabis is a Schedule I controlled substance means ignoring the vast body of medical evidence that has accumulated in recent decades, including hundreds of clinical studies and thousands of patient testimonials.
Mueller's move to hold a hearing last year to look at the issue is considered a significant step reflecting growing skepticism about federal marijuana laws, according to Sam Kamin, an expert on cannabis regulation at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.
"While this one came out the other way, what you see is a lot of momentum in changing federal marijuana law," Kamin said.
Judge Mueller claimed in a 15-minute hearing that she was "initially prepared" to grant the defense motion, but then decided from the facts of this one case that "this is not the court and this is not the time." She explained away her spineless and unscientific decision by saying she decided it was "up to Congress" to change the law if it so wishes.
Mueller said she'd issue a written ruling by the end of the week.
"It has been 45 years since Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act," Mueller said, noting "the landscape has changed" since then. But while the courts are an independent branch of government, Judge Mueller said they aren't designed to act as makers of public policy.
The judge didn't explain why that belief would prevent her from ruling according to the facts of the case, which clearly showed marijuana to be a useful medicine.
Defense attorney Bill Bonham said the ruling was a letdown. "I felt that the judge was leaning to grant the motion, from our previous hearings, so I guess it's disappointing," he said.
Mueller gave the defense team three weeks before a May 6 court hearing to set a trial date for the case.
Defense attorneys had argued that marijuana is far less harmful than many legal drugs, and its classification as a Schedule I substance is arbitrary in violation of the Constitution.
The criminal complaint filed in 2011 named 16 defendants and accused them of conspiring to grow at least 1,000 pot plants as part of an operation that included land in Shasta-Trinity National Forest in California.
Photo of Judge Kimberly J. Mueller: Eastern District of California Blog