Is Marijuana Really As Dangerous As Heroin And LSD? Finally, A Welcome Legal Review

CALIFORNIA:  A federal judge has done what Congress and the Obama administration have failed to do — open a discussion on whether marijuana should continue to be listed as a Schedule 1 drug, a classification that is supposed to be used only for the most dangerous, addictive drugs, such as heroin and LSD.

As part of a criminal trial involving alleged marijuana growers in Northern California, U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller held a five-day hearing late last year to evaluate the current scientific research on marijuana use and to determine whether the Schedule 1 designation is unconstitutional, as the defendants contend. Final arguments are scheduled for next month.

This discussion is a welcome one. Whether the Drug Enforcement Administration’s classification is constitutional or not, it shouldn’t take a judge to point out that lumping marijuana in with heroin and deeming it to have no medicinal value at all is unreasonable and unnecessary.

Frankly, government policy on marijuana is a mess. Federal law says marijuana has no accepted medicinal value, yet 23 states have legalized it for medical use. It has been put on the list of drugs that carry the most severe penalties for drug crimes, but Congress and the Obama administration have also passed legislation that blocks funding for the enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states that allow medical marijuana. That law, passed in December, in effect ended the prohibition of medical marijuana in nearly half the states. Meanwhile, Colorado and Washington have been unofficially allowed by the federal government to legalize recreational pot.

New Law Could Affect Criminal Sentences In Marijuana Cases

CALIFORNIA:  In a sharp reversal of federal drug policy, Congress has prohibited the Justice Department from interfering with laws in California and other states that allow the medical use of marijuana. And the turnabout caught the immediate attention of federal judges, who want to know its impact on some recent criminal convictions under the federal law that classifies pot as one of the most dangerous drugs.

A day after President Obama signed the new law last week as part of a government spending bill, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of San Francisco asked a federal prosecutor whether the change would affect the sentencing of a Mendocino County pot grower, who pleaded guilty to charges requiring at least five years in prison.

Not at all, replied Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Barry, because defendant Matthew Graves “was not growing (his crop) for patients. … He was growing it for money.”

But Breyer wouldn’t take Barry’s word for it, and rescheduled the sentencing for February.

U.S. Judge Says Government View On Marijuana Raises 'Equal Justice' Issue

MARYLAND: A federal judge in Maryland handed down lighter prison sentences Monday to defendants in a huge marijuana distribution case, saying that such offenses are “not regarded with the same seriousness” as they were just a few decades ago.

U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar said the federal government’s response to marijuana legalization in some states — notably the decision not to pursue criminal cases against dispensaries and others handling the drug in accordance with those states’ laws — raises concerns of “equal justice.” [Read more…]

Eric Holder Says DOJ Will Let Washington, Colorado Marijuana Laws Go Into Effect

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The United States government took an historic step back from its long-running drug war on Thursday, when Attorney General Eric Holder informed the governors of Washington and Colorado that the Department of Justice would allow the states to create a regime that would regulate and implement the ballot initiatives that legalized the use of marijuana for adults. [Read more…]

Marijuana expert suggests state contract with feds

COLORADO: A professor who serves as a lead consultant on implementing Washington state’s marijuana law has suggested that the U.S. Department of Justice enter into contracts with both Washington and Colorado to avoid a federal crackdown on state-licensed businesses that will sell marijuana. [Read more…]

Advocates of Drugs-Sentencing Reform Welcome Eric Holder's Policy Overhaul

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Anthony Papa was in debt and desperate for cash when he accepted an offer, from a bowling buddy, to get involved in a drug deal. In exchange for $500, the father-of-one was to deliver an envelope containing four ounces of cocaine from the Bronx to Mount Vernon, New York. [Read more…]