Marijuana remains a Schedule I. After a court hearing in California. U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller declined to remove marijuana from the list of Schedule I drugs. Judge Mueller said she would leave it up to Congress to change the law if it wishes. The ruling came after more than 20 states legalized medical marijuana use. Four states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — allow for recreational pot use.
Drugs classified as Schedule I drugs are among the most dangerous drugs in the DEA’s schedule of classifications. The classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug puts it in the same category as Heroin, Ecstasy and LSD. While Cocaine and Methamphetamine ranks lower on the scale as Schedule II drugs. Because marijuana is classified as one of the most dangerous drugs, it the reason why federal authorities have come against states that have legalized medical marijuana. It is also the reason why the government has prompted raids on marijuana growers and dispensaries that appear to be operating legally under state law.
A ruling against marijuana’s classification “would have been significant because you would have had a federal judge acknowledging what a majority of the public has already concluded that marijuana does not meet the three criteria of a Schedule I drug,” said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Advocates say the strict Schedule I label is problematic, because it incurs the harshest federal penalties for those who are caught with marijuana. It also adds bureaucratic hurdles for researchers who want study marijuana. “I see dozens of cases a month that are impacted by this classification,” says Michael Cindrich, an attorney in San Diego, California, who specializes in criminal cases related to medical marijuana. Meanwhile, the significance of the ruling has blurred following more states legalizing recreational marijuana.Congress has also ordered the Department of Justice to stop pursuing criminal cases against growers or users of medical marijuana.
Why Is Marijuana a Schedule I Drug?
In 1970,under the administration of President Richard Nixon, Congress passed the Controlled Substance Act. The act established the schedules by which drugs would be classified. The new law temporarily listed marijuana as a Schedule I substance, subject to review. The administration formed a commission that was assigned to study marijuana and advise the administration on where it should be permanently placed.
Two years after the Controlled Substance Act was passed, the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse issued a series of reports (report one — report two) on the state of marijuana in the U.S. The commission acknowledged that marijuana was less a serious threat to public health. The commission recommended that changes be made to federal law that would permit citizens to possess a small amount of marijuana at a time, while still maintaining that the drug should not be legalized.
In order to change the classification of marijuana, today’s advocates could work through one of several avenues. Despite the repeated failures of the past, they could file another petition with the DEA. Or they could also hope for Congress to pass a bill similar to one that was introduced last year that would order a reclassification. Or they could hope President Obama takes executive action to reclassify the drug, although the Obama administration has stated that it would prefer to wait for Congress to lead that effort.