A judge in California just finished a five-day hearing regarding a pot case that focuses on the validity of cannabis’ current classification as a Schedule I substance. Although the ruling will only apply to the specific case being discussed in court, it could have a major impact on the future of cannabis legislation on a federal level.
U.S. District Court Judge Kimberly J. Mueller listened to a case concerning Brian Pickard and Bryan Schweder, two men charged with running a massive grow operation hidden within the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. According to reports, upwards of 500 plants, processed cannabis and more than $35,000 in cash were discovered following a series of police raids in 2011. Fifteen people were arrested in connection to the operation. After witnesses and local police testified, Picker and Schweder were identified as the ringleaders. The group seemed doomed to the same fate of many offenders convicted of non-violent crimes — years and years behind bars. However, a preliminary motion forced a hearing on the issue.
Attorneys Zenia Gilg and Heather Burke declared the continued classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance unconstitutional. They are defending seven men on felony charges who may be punished by up to 15 years in prison. While some of the defendants have already spent years in jail, Judge Mueller’s willingness to hear the case makes many hopeful of the outcome.
“It’s earth-shattering to even have this hearing,” said Adam Levine, a professor at Stetson University College of Law. “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.”
Three medical experts were called on in court to testify on behalf of the medicinal benefits of cannabis. Gregory Carter, MD, Carl Hart, PhD and Philip Denny, MD all agreed that the federal classification of cannabis was unreasonable.
“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,” said Dr. Hart, an associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University.
Now that the hearing is over, Judge Mueller will some time to review all of the evidence presented during the case before presenting her final judgement. Many are hopeful that her choice will cause major waves.
“That decision will have national implications. You will see defense attorneys around the country filing similar motions,” said Paul Armentano, the Deputy Director of NORML. “That will perhaps kick open the door to begin the long overdue discussion in the legislative halls of government—where arguably it ought to be taken place in the first place.”
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