Federal court to hear evidence on cannabis classification

Posted on October 25th, 2014 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , , , .

medical marijuanaThe US District Court for the Eastern District of California will hold rare formal hearings beginning Oct. 27 to determine whether an indictment against Brian Justin Pickard and others for conspiracy to grow more than 1,000 marijuana plants violates the US Constitution, and whether marijuana is misclassified by the federal government as a dangerous drug with no medical value. US District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller will preside over the three-day hearing, which includes expert testimony from doctors Carl Hart, associate professor of psychology at Columbia University in New York; Greg Carter, medical director of St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane, Wash., and expert witness Chris Conrad.

Bertha Madras, professor of psychobiology at Harvard Medical School and formerly with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George W. Bush will testify on behalf of the government. 

The evidentiary hearing was granted by Judge Mueller after attorneys Zenia Gilg and Heather Burke filed a motion in November 2013 to dismiss the charges against their client Pickard on grounds that the indictment is unconstitutional. The defense attorneys are arguing that "marijuana does not fit the criteria of a Schedule I Controlled Substance," and the law therefore shouldn't have been used to target their client. The original indictment was filed against Pickard and 15 others in October 2011.

This review of marijuana's classification under federal law come as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided two medical marijuana dispensaries Oct. 23 in West Hollywood and Westwood, Calif. So far, no explanation was given by the DEA for raiding the Farmacy, which operates both facilities in accordance with local and state laws.

Recently, Attorney General Eric Holder spoke with Katie Couric and questioned whether "marijuana is as serious a drug as heroin." Holder went on to say that science should be used as the basis for determining whether marijuana and heroin should be in the same category. Yet, despite policy memoranda, and public statements by the president and his administration indicating different enforcement priorities, the Department of Justice continues to raid and prosecute people engaged in lawful medical marijuana activity.

The Kettle Falls 5, a widely watched case against a family in eastern Washington, in which each defendant faces at least 10 years of mandatory minimums, continues to be aggressively prosecuted by the DoJ. The trial date in that case is currently scheduled for Dec. 1. Around the same time, the US Senate is expected to take up budget bills that were put on hold earlier this year, one of which contains a measure approved by the House to restrict DoJ enforcement funds in medical marijuana states.

The four states of Colorado, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington filed petitions to reschedule marijuana for medical use in 2011. Those petitions are still pending with the Drug Enforcement Administration. (ASA, Oct. 24)

Graphic: Herbal Remedies


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