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The Rescheduling of Cannabis May be Imminent as Assistant U.S. Attorney Gives Evidence on its Medical Benefits in Landmark Trial



The debate over the health benefits of cannabis has been raging for years, with medical cannabis being legal in 26 states while the Federal Government continues to keep it classified as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance, deemed to have no approved medicinal value (just for reference, cocaine and crystal meth are Schedule II, deemed to have some medicinal use).

Thousands and thousands of lives has been destroyed as people have been imprisoned and ruthlessly prosecuted for growing this plant that provides them with healing medicine for a wide variety of conditions. This may all be about to change after the first four days of hearings on the constitutionality of cannabis being classified Schedule 1.

Testimony regarding the federal statute designating cannabis as a Schedule I Controlled Substance began on Monday, October 27 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California in the case of United States v. Pickard, et. al., No.2:11-CR-0449-KJM.

According to The Leaf Online, interactions transpired at the hearing between defense lawyers for NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and the Federal Government prosecutors showing that they both agree that cannabis does have medicinal benefits, a fact long denied by the DEA and FDA despite a plethora of research to the contrary.

1. While cross-examining defense witness Dr. Philip Denney, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Bender argued that Marinol (synthetic THC taken orally in pill form) worked slightly better than natural cannabis (THC) for pain relief, because the pill’s effects last longer. In this line of questioning, he brought up a scientific study showing that plant-based cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain, but the expensive, synthetic Marinol worked marginally better. He asked of Dr. Denney, “So, both smoked marijuana and oral THC were effective, but Marinol was a little better because it lasted longer?” to which Dr. Denney answered, “Yes.” Perhaps without realizing it, the U.S Attorney brought up and supported evidence that cannabis is an effective pain medication, thereby having medicinal value, the key purpose of the trial. This is similar to saying that “Vicodin works better than Advil,” yet both are accepted pain medications.

2. NORML attorney Zenia Gilg brought up the US Government’s Investigative New Drug Program (IND), in which US patients receive free tins of cannabis every month to treat their severe health conditions. The prosecution’s objection was apparently overruled for being ‘belated,’ meaning that testimony was allowed to be heard about this 2002 US government study which showed that cannabis offered “remarkable long-term success treating severely ill patients who had proven resistant to traditional therapies, and with a minimum of undesirable side effects.” This study has a high impact, having been conducted at the behest of the US Government.

3. Evidence was also given on whether cannabis is a “currently accepted” medicinal treatment among physicians. First, a poll by the New England Journal of Medicine was presented showing that 76% of physicians approved cannabis for a hypothetical patient. While there was some argument over this poll, another poll from WebMD showing 69% of physicians support the medical use of cannabis was presented uncontested. Prosecutors had “apparently conceded a point which is logically central to the question of whether cannabis belongs in Schedule I.

4. Debate continued as to the definition of “medicine” and whether cannabis qualifies as medicine. Prosecution witness Dr. Bertha Madras, an adviser to the George W. Bush presidency, presented the argument that cannabis does not count as medicine. The defense attorney  Zenia Gilg was quick to point out that Dr. Madras had never actually treated patients or witnessed the effects of cannabis as medicine, unlike defense witnesses Dr. Carl Hart and Dr. Phillip Denney who have expert clinical experience (according to The Leaf, Dr. Hart directly studies the effects of cannabis on human subjects in his laboratory, and Dr. Denney attended to over 12,000 patients in his career as a physician). When the results of numerous double-blind, placebo controlled studies revealing the benefits of cannabis were brought up, Madras “stammered noticeably before explaining that she only meant to say that she would have preferred a more stringent study design,” in addition to admitting that when it comes to dozens of studies researching individual cannabinoids like CBDs, “she had never actually read them.”  In other words, the government expert arguing that cannabis is not medicine had limited knowledge of the relevant research and never treated any patients or observed any patients treated with cannabis.

As this case continues to unfold, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: It is getting more and more difficult to deny the medicinal values of cannabis, a plant that has been used by millions of Americans to treat a variety of health concerns since it was made available for medicinal use in 1996. Science and the rights of millions of patients continue to be at the forefront of this debate, with even Assistant U.S. Attorney agreeing that cannabis DOES in fact have medicinal benefits. You can continue to follow daily reports from the trial on The Leaf Online.

This trial comes hot on the heels of the announcement that MAPS (the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies) has just submitted a $2 million grant application to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to study the medicinal value of cannabis to treat PTSD in 76 veterans. This research is designed to help demonstrate the safety and efficacy of botanical marijuana as a prescription medicine for specific medical uses to the satisfaction of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This study could finally end the debate of whether cannabis qualifies as medicine by clearly and effectively meeting all FDA guidelines for medicinal approval. To learn more about MAPS and get involved, visit their cannabis research page.


Dr. Kelly Neff is a social psychologist, author and educator who has helped thousands of people learn about health, relationships, love and sexuality. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Georgetown and M.A. and Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Claremont Graduate University. A professor of psychology since 2007, she has become an innovator in the field of online teaching with her book, Teaching Psychology Online. When she isn’t writing, teaching or doing healing work from her home in Boulder, CO, Dr. Neff travels the globe researching transformational festivals for her upcoming book for the Festival Research Project. She is currently a contributing author to The Mind Unleashed. You can find her daily doses of inspiration and positivity on Facebook and Twitter. Light and Love!

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