What started as federal criminal trials against seven men growing marijuana on national forest land in California has turned into a monumental, HISTORIC evidentiary hearing. The hearing lasted four days and started on Friday, October 24, 2014. It was complete with three expert medical witnesses and a NORML attorney whose testimonies were described as “lively”, “fiery” and at times “humorous”.
The judge will determine if the current Controlled Substance Act classification of marijuana (as a Schedule I drug) is appropriate and constitutional.
The defense attorneys contend that it is NOT constitutional because the scheduling is not appropriate.
The Judge’s decision could mean the END of marijuana prohibition–at least in California.
U.S. District Court Judge, Kimberly J. Mueller said she felt compelled to examine up-to-date evidence that marijuana has medical usefulness because of a Supreme Court decision which changed another law. The decision to delete a FOOTNOTE in another case (Footnote #37 from the Gonzales v. Raich case) led to this twist in the trial. Read more about the Footnote here]
The testimony Judge Mueller heard this week will allow her to determine if marijuana meets the criteria of a Schedule I drug, a category that includes heroin and LSD.
As you may know, Schedule I drugs are defined as those that:
- have a high potential for abuse
- lack any accepted medical use in treatment (in the United States)
- cannot be used safely, even under medical supervision.
The three eminent medical experts who testified are Carl Hart PhD, Gregory Carter, MD and Philip Denny, MD. The doctors argued that cannabis is one of mankind’s oldest, safest therapeutic substances and does not fit ANY of the Schedule I criteria. All three addressed marijuana’s current and potential medical usefulness, the “better than most drugs on the market” safety profile and what the “potential for abuse” means if you’re using marijuana as medicine.
If Judge Mueller determines that cannabis is inappropriately classified, and determines it to be “unconstitutional”, her decision could lead to the rescheduling or DESCHEDULING of marijuana.
This will be a landmark decision with statewide, national and international impacts. Many appeals are likely to follow and the case could head back to the Supreme Court. Judge Mueller is supposed to make her decision by November 19, 2014.
TESTIMONY GIVEN BY THE DOCTORS
Dr. Carl Hart is a drug addiction expert. He is a psychoneuropharmacologist who has conducted addiction research on human subjects. He educates physicians at Columbia medical school. He sits on an advisory board of the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and advocates for drug policy reform. His performance was described as a “masterful testimony”
Dr. Hart dissected the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (which defines addiction) and stated:
“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.” (from Norml.org/news)
Dr. Gregory Carter also specializes in educating physicians about cannabis. He is the medical director at St. Luke Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane, Washington. He holds many board certifications and fellowships including the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine. He cited and discussed a meta-analysis of 18 placebo-controlled studies, the majority of them showing cannabis was effective at treating neuropathic pain and had minimal side effects.
It was noted that the United States government (DHHS) holds a patent on marijuana as a neuroprotective agent and that 23 states and Washington D.C. have medical marijuana laws.
Dr. Phillip Denny is a retired physician with vast experience treating medical cannabis patients.
Dr. Denny spoke about the U.S. government’s Investigative New Drug program (IND), the program that has supplied US patients with tins of government-grown cannabis since the 1970’s. He presented the results of a 2002 study showing the long-term successes in treating the severely ill IND patients. He fielded questions about a study showing the cannabis-based prescription medication, Marinol had the same effectiveness as smoked cannabis—helping substantiate the medical value of both.
Day 4 was also lively. Bertha Madras PhD, the only government expert witness asserted that cannabis cannot properly be called “medicine” because it does not meet the strict standards set by the Food and Drug Administration. NORML attorney Zenia Gilg countered by providing the results of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies which showed significant and beneficial medicinal effects.
Gilg also dimished Madras’s credibility as an expert witness, citing her lack of training and experience with working with medical marijuana. This stood in stark contrast to the vast education and experience of Dr. Hart, Dr. Carter and Dr. Denny.
To read more about day 4 click here: