U.S. Judge Denies Request To Change Marijuana's Schedule I Classification

By McCarton Ackerman 04/20/15

U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller backed down from reclassifying weed.

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Marijuana will be considered just as dangerous as crack cocaine and heroin for the foreseeable future, at least in the eyes of the government. A U.S. judge has refused to change the drug’s current Schedule I status, meaning its classification under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 is still considered constitutional.

U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller announced her decision at a hearing in Sacramento, Calif. She agreed last year to hold an extensive fact-finding hearing on the matter, marking the first time in decades that a judge was willing to examine this issue. However, she said that she was unable to simply overturn a law that was passed by Congress.

“At some point in time, a court may decide this status to be unconstitutional. But this is not the court and not the time,” said Mueller. Her ruling means that at the federal level, marijuana is considered to have a high potential for abuse and be unsafe even under medical supervision. It will also continue to be difficult for researchers to gain access to legal marijuana for studies.

Pot advocates expressed disappointment in Mueller’s decision and expect to appeal, but that won’t take place until early next year at best. Paul Armentano, deputy director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said he was “disappointed with this ruling, [but] it changes little.” He also thanked Mueller for “having the courage to hear this issue and provide it the careful consideration it deserves.”

Mueller’s ruling is contradictory in many ways because several top U.S. health officials have spoken openly about the benefits of medical marijuana. Last February, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said the drug can be “helpful” for certain conditions. He also urged preliminary data on the subject to “drive policymaking,” but said he opposed full legalization and didn’t “think it’s a good habit to use marijuana.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.