Heroin, LSD, Ecstasy and Mescaline are just some of the few drugs and substances listed as “Schedule 1” drugs under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970. Marijuana is also one of the substances listed as a Schedule 1 Drug.
U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller will be ruling on the constitutionality of the CSA and whether marijuana should continue to be classified under the CSA as a Schedule 1 drug. Her ruling will be based on testimony, briefs, exhibits, declarations and will be expected to be given later this year.
According to the DEA, a Schedule 1 Drug is defined as:
“Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”
Last year, Mueller held a five-day hearing on this debate to hear both sides of the spectrum despite opposition by prosecutors. It is problematic and challenging for researchers to obtain legal marijuana to study for research purposes due to federal restrictions on Schedule 1 drugs. This has slowed and derailed the progress on this debate.
According to the LA Times, defendants have argued that the law “violates the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law and a doctrine that gives states equal sovereignty.” They claim that marijuana is much safer than some non-regulated substances and does not deserve to be in the same category as some of the other Schedule 1 Drugs.
Several states have already legalized recreational use of marijuana, with others providing legal protection for its medicinal use. "It just shows that this country has recognized that marijuana is less harmful than, I would say, alcohol, and the law prohibiting it is absurd, particularly as it related to being up there with heroin and LSD," said Zenia K. Gilg, a lawyer and member of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Gilg claims that the perception of the drug has changed drastically both scientifically and publically since courts last examined the 1970 federal classifications. "The evidence is overwhelming and irrefutable, cannabis has remarkable medicinal qualities which have been known and applied throughout history," wrote Gilg and co-counsel Heather L. Burke.
Prosecutors claim there is still dispute among doctors as to whether marijuana is medicine, though they fail to point out that this dispute may be in part due to how hard it is to obtain and study marijuana due to its Schedule 1 classification. Gregory T. Broderick, an assistant U.S. attorney, wrote in a brief that, "In 2013 alone, more than 29,000 people checked themselves in for marijuana substance abuse treatment just in California, and more than half of them were teenagers. Given the state of the science, it is clear that treating marijuana as a controlled substance is rationally related to legitimate public health objectives."
Prosecutors claim that the law still must be upheld if it has some type of justification. The decision by Judge Mueller will be eagerly awaited due to the tremendous impact this decision may have on future rulings.