A number of you have expressed interest in this week’s evidentiary hearing in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California regarding the constitutionality of the federal statute designating marijuana as a Schedule I Controlled Substance.
The hearing was presided over by U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller. Mueller stated for the record on Day 1 of the hearing that she granted the hearing, over prosecutors’ objections, because footnote 37 in Raich v Gonzalez, which states in part, “We acknowledge that evidence proffered by respondents in this case regarding the effective medical uses for marijuana, if found credible after trial, would cast serious doubt on the accuracy of the findings that require marijuana to be listed in Schedule I.”
Although Judge Mueller initially scheduled testimony for three days, expert testimony was ultimately taken over the course of five days.
Expert witnesses for the defense who testified at the hearing were Dr. Carl Hart, Associate Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at Columbia University in New York City, retired physician Phillip Denny, Dr. Greg Carter, Medical Director of St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane, Washington, and marijuana cultivation expert and archivist Chris Conrad. The lone expert witness for the government was Dr. Bertha Madras, Professor of Psychobiology at Harvard Medical School and the former Deputy Director for Demand Reduction for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George W. Bush.
Defense counsel for the litigants were NORML Legal Committee members Zenia Gilg of San Francisco and Heather Burke of Nevada City, CA. I assisted attorneys Gilg and Burke as a consultant in the case prior to the hearing and as their principle investigator during the hearing — a point that the federal government’s attorneys insisted on making public by insisting the judge recognize that :“Defense counsels’ investigator is the Deputy Director of NORML; he’s not some ordinary investigator.”
Representatives from California NORML as well as writer Jeremy Daw from TheLeafOnline were in attendance during most/all of the hearing, and provide day-by-day coverage of events at the links below:
Dr. Madras was cross-examined both Wednesday afternoon and Thursday. Among the highlights from her cross-examination included:
Her repeated calls for the need for more ‘rigorous’ clinical trails of the plant’s purported efficacy — a call that lacked any credibility when it was pointed out to the court that she worked for a federal agency (ONDCP) that, by law, opposed any federal funding of any study into the potential efficacy of cannabis in humans.
Her having to backtrack from supposed claims of increasing cannabis dependence when confronted with the fact that her own citations (10 years reviews of NSDUH and TEDS data) reported dependency to have fallen over the past decade.
Her begrudging acknowledgement that the DSM-V criteria for ‘cannabis use disorder’ and ‘caffeine use disorder’ were, in fact, “similar.”
Her begrudging acknowledgment that there exist no longitudinal studies assessing any adverse causal impact of cannabis use of the brain.
Her failure to answer the fundamental question of why she would weigh animal data purporting to show cannabis-related harms as sound evidence while simultaneously dismissing gold-standard, placebo-controlled clinical studies establishing efficacy in humans as ‘weak’ and ‘limited.’
At present, Judge has filed dates for legal counsel to turn in briefs and agree to terms regarding which exhibits will be introduced into evidence. A ruling by Judge Mueller is not anticipated until, most likely, after the first of the year.
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