While Uncle Sam stands smugly behind his pulpit of prohibition, a federal hearing is currently underway in California that could serve to undermine the old coot’s grey-haired drug policies and set a brave new standard for marijuana reform in the United States. Earlier this week, a US district judge granted a three-day examination into the Schedule I classification that the Drug Enforcement Administration strapped to the back of marijuana more than 40 years ago.
At the root of the hearing lies a criminal case involving several men who were charged with cultivating cannabis in a national forest. Legal council for the defendants argue that the indictment was a breach of the constitution, on the basis that “marijuana does not fit the criteria of a Schedule I Controlled Substance,” and has since filed a motion to have the charges dismissed.
Many legal experts were shocked to learn that federal Justice Kimberly Mueller granted what is destined to become a historical case in the realm of American drug reform. “It’s earth-shattering to even have this hearing,” Adam Levine, adjunct professor at Stetson University College of Law told The Christian Science Monitor. “The fact that the judge is willing to hear this case means she is willing to question if the DEA’s original classification is constitutional.”
Four decades of rotten, federal policy against a natural herb is enough, as far as San Francisco criminal defense attorney and NORML legal committee member, Zenia Gilg is concerned. “At that point, not a lot was known about the medicinal benefits of marijuana,” she said. “It’s about time somebody looked at the new evidence.”
Despite the objections of prosecutors, Judge Mueller said she would grant the hearing because legal council for the defendants had submitted expert accounts “showing there is new scientific and medical information raising contested issues of fact regarding whether the continued inclusion of marijuana as a Schedule One controlled substance… passes constitutional muster.”
Now, Gilg and her legion of legal soldiers must convince the judge that the federal statutes imposed on marijuana are no longer valid, which will prove to be a challenging task, to say the least. However, if the defense is successful, while the verdict would only apply to the men in this particular case, it could ultimately steam roll the issue and serve to overthrow the antiquated drug laws in this country forever.
The strategy of the defense is to present testimony by doctors and scientists, who will take the stand and proclaim that pot is less hazardous than many legal substances on the market today. They also plan to throw the Obama Administration’s hypocritical stance on marijuana into the fire, asserting that while the federal government has maintained a four decade long erection for throwing people in prison over weed, they have also allowed nearly half of the states to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes and two for recreational use.
“If marijuana is actually such a dangerous drug, the rational response by the Department of Justice would be to increase, not decrease, prosecution in those states,” said Gilg.
Federal prosecutors have enlisted their own expert witness, Bertha Madras, a professor of psychobiology at Harvard University and one-time drug war crony for the Office of National Drug Control under the guidance of President George W. Bush. She will testify that the current Schedule I classification for marijuana is right on point because of its “potential for abuse.”
Undoubtedly, the outcome of this hearing could dictate the prolonging or demise of marijuana prohibition in the United States.