A federal judge in Sacramento, California, has declined to remove marijuana from the Schedule I list of most dangerous drugs, which has disappointed legalization proponents and activists who viewed this as a watershed moment and a chance to get closer to the goal of nationwide legalization.
Judge Kimberly J. Mueller of the Federal District Court in Sacramento said during a brief 15-minute court hearing that she was initially going to rule that marijuana should not be on the list of Schedule I drugs, but ultimately decided that it should be up to Congress to change the law if it wishes.
“It has been 45 years since Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act,” Mueller said, noting that “the landscape has changed” since then. She added, “This is not the court and this is not the time to overturn federal law."
Even if the judge were so inclined to remove marijuana from the Schedule I list, it would have been a small victory, as the new classification would have been narrowly applied to the case she is hearing and absolutely would have been appealed by legalization opponents. Still, advocates claim that a favorable ruling would have set a precedent for other criminal cases and would add to the national push to change the current federal marijuana laws.
For years now, the classification of marijuana as one of the most dangerous drugs on the planet has pitted the federal authorities against states that have legalized the plant. This has prompted raids on dispensaries and growers alike 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 1 drug,” said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
The decision by Judge Mueller comes as part of a criminal complaint filed in 2011, which accused 16 defendants of conspiring to grow at least 1,000 marijuana plants as part of a large operation that included land in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in California. Several defendants have settled their cases, leaving nine to face trial.