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Appeals Court Upholds Schedule I Listing of Cannabis

A.J. Herrington

By A.J. Herrington

September 20, 2022

Close up shot of a cannabis plant blossom in front of a black ba

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A federal appeals court recently upheld a constitutional challenge to marijuana’s listing as a Schedule l drug under the Controlled Substances Act, finding that Congress has a “conceivable basis” to saddle cannabis with the strictest restrictions under federal drug laws.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found late last month that while the inclusion of cannabis in Schedule l may seem “irrational” given the stated criteria under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), Congress did not violate the U.S. Constitution with the legislation.

The case stems from the conviction of Alexander Green and Charles Green, two brothers who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic drugs and money laundering charges in a federal court in

in 2018. According to prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Green brothers were involved in a criminal conspiracy to traffic marijuana across the country from the West Coast for distribution in the New York City and Rochester, New York metropolitan areas. In April 2019, U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Wolford sentenced Alexander Green to four years in federal prison for his role in the conspiracy, while Charles Green received a sentence of 27 months.

“This wasn’t a rinky-dink drug operation,”

at the sentencing hearing. “It was significant and it was major.”

The Green brothers appealed their convictions on grounds that the Schedule I classification of marijuana violates their rights to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution. The defendants argued that the classification has no rational basis because the CSA requires Schedule I drugs to, among other criteria, have no accepted medical use.

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Appeals Court Affirms Lower Court Ruling

Judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals agreed with the district court and rejected the argument presented by the defendants, writing in a

that the scheduling criteria are not relevant to the rational basis question.

“The Act’s scheduling criteria are largely irrelevant to our constitutional review because the rational basis test asks only whether Congress could have any conceivable basis for including marijuana on the strictest schedule,” the judges wrote in their opinion. “Because there are other plausible considerations that could have motivated Congress’s scheduling of marijuana, we conclude that its classification does not violate the Green brothers’ due process or equal protection rights.”

The appeals court acknowledged that the defendants “convincingly argue that it is irrational for the government to maintain that marijuana has no accepted medical use.” However, the judges ruled that the argument alone is not enough for the court to find the Schedule l status of cannabis unconstitutional.

“As we have explained,” the judges concluded, the defendants in this case “must do more than show that the legislature’s stated assumptions are irrational; [they] must discredit any conceivable basis which could be advanced to support the challenged provision, regardless of whether that basis has a foundation in the record, or actually motivated the legislature.”

Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), commented on the decision from the appeals court in a

.

“This ruling is disappointing, but not unanticipated,” he said.

Armentano added that the decision is consistent with other federal court rulings that have declined to find the Schedule l status of cannabis unconstitutional, ruling that the rational basis review does not allow judges to override decisions made by Congress.

“Judges have repeatedly ruled that it is the responsibility of federal lawmakers, not the courts, to repeal the federal prohibition of marijuana,” said Armentano. “Rather than expect relief from the federal courts, citizens need to continue to pressure their federally elected officials to repeal this admittedly ‘irrational’ and destructive policy.”

A.J. Herrington

About The Author

A.J. Herrington

HIGH THERE MISSION

WE’RE A CREATIVE COMMUNITY — EXPLORING THE SCIENCE, CRAFT, AND CULTURE OF CANNABIS.
WE BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE A COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS ERADICATING THE STIGMA, MISINFORMATION, AND INEQUITIES SURROUNDING THIS PLANT, SO WE CAN UNLOCK ITS TRUE POTENTIAL FOR ALL.

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