The U.S. government claims marijuana is a dangerous, addictive drug with no medical benefits. But that claim will be up for debate Monday in California when a federal judge is scheduled to hear testimony from doctors that conclude the opposite.
Doctors Carl Hart, Associate Professor of Psychology at Columbia University, retired physician Phillip Denny, and Greg Carter, Medical Director of St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane, Washington will testify Monday that marijuana — real name, “cannabis” — is not the demon drug the federal government makes it out to be. Accepted science does not justify the listing of cannabis as a dangerous “Schedule I” substance, many say.
“[I]t is my considered opinion that including marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act is counter to all the scientific evidence in a society that uses and values empirical evidence,” Dr. Hart declared. “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.”
This is an unprecedented hearing, writes cannabis law reform advocate Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML.
“This is the first time in recent memory that a federal judge has granted an evidentiary hearing on a motion challenging the statute which classifies cannabis to be one of the most dangerous illicit substances in the nation.”
Attorneys Zenia Gilg and Heather Burke write that “In effect, the action taken by the Department of Justice is either irrational, or more likely proves … [that] marijuana does not fit the criteria of a Schedule I Controlled Substance.”
Testimony for the evidentiary hearing of United States v. Pickard, et. al., should last three days.
Government witness Bertha Madras, former White House Drug Czar deputy director under George W. Bush will defend the Schedule 1 designation. Madras states cannabis has no accepted medical use and is unsafe.
Madras states she supports the pharmaceuticalization of THC and CBD, while criminalizing the use of the plant they come from.
“Although more than 30% of current therapeutic drugs are plant-derived, no one currently eats or smokes foxglove plants to treat a heart condition, chews cinchona bark to alleviate malaria symptoms, or eats opium poppies to relieve post-surgical pain,” Madras writes.
In places where medical marijuana is legal, folks have moved on from smoking it to vaporization, edibles, tinctures, and topicals. About one in 20 California adults are estimated to have used medical marijuana for a serious illness, according to the most recent survey data. Ninety-two percent of them are estimated to believe cannabis was helpful for their condition.
Critics of Madras note the government has actually patented cannabis for use in stroke therapy.
President Richard Nixon placed cannabis in Schedule 1 in 1970, overruling the recommendations of his own National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, which found “little proven danger of physical or psychological harm from the experimental or intermittent use of the natural preparations of cannabis.”