13 July 2016
The Democrat & Chronicle reports….
A federal magistrate judge has rebuffed a challenge to federal laws that place marijuana among the nation’s most dangerous drugs and do not acknowledge the growing research into its medicinal benefits.
In his ruling, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Feldman noted that “there can be no dispute that public opinion on whether marijuana has legitimate medical uses is changing in this country.” But Feldman ruled that Charles and Alexander Green, two brothers accused of marijuana trafficking, had a difficult legal threshold to prove — specifically, that current federal laws are “so arbitrary and irrational as to be unconstitutional.”
The Greens, who are from California, are accused of major roles in a marijuana trafficking operation that brought the drug into western New York. They have challenged how federal laws now classify marijuana: It is in a category, alongside heroin, of what are known as “Schedule 1” drugs, meaning that Congress and federal authorities consider it among the nation’s most dangerous illicit substances.
If successful, the Greens’ challenge could force a dismissal of the criminal indictment against them.
Their lawyers sought a hearing on the classification, which, if granted, would likely have brought dueling experts to the court.
Feldman ruled that a hearing was unnecessary. The Greens would have to prove that the facts underlying marijuana’s current classification “could not reasonably be conceived to be true,” Feldman ruled. But there is no solid consensus into either the benefits or harm of marijuana that would allow such a judgment to be made after a hearing, he decided.
The lawyers for the Greens can appeal the ruling to U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Wolford. William Easton, one of the attorneys, said they plan to do so. For a drug to be categorized as Schedule 1, lawmakers must decide that it has no medical use in treatment.
“The assertion that there is no medicinal use of marijuana is flat out irrational,” Easton said.
Feldman noted that other courts have also supported the current classification. In 2015, a federal judge did allow a hearing on a similar challenge, ruling afterward as Feldman did.
“In view of the principled disagreements among reputable scientists and practitioners regarding the potential benefits and detrimental effects of marijuana, this court cannot say that its placement on Schedule I is so arbitrary or unreasonable as to render it unconstitutional,” U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller ruled.
“Congress still could rationally choose one side of the debate over the other,” she wrote.
The classification is now under review by federal officials.
While saying that there is not legal justification to reject the classification, Feldman did highlight that New York is now one of many states allowing marijuana to be used for medical purposes.
Repeating a hypothetical he raised at an earlier hearing, he noted that under federal law there could be justification for the “government prosecuting the governor of New York for a marijuana distribution conspiracy.”