In a case that could change the relationship between the states and the federal government on marijuana, a federal judge in Sacramento has granted a three-day hearing that challenges the federal ban on the substance, the Christian Science Monitor reports. At issue is the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug, which dates from the early 1970s. That is the same classification given to heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy. The status was reaffirmed in 2011 and upheld in a federal appeals court last year.
The hearing stems from a criminal case against several men charged with growing marijuana on national forest land. The evidentiary hearing was granted by Judge Kimberly Mueller after two attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the charges on grounds that the indictment is unconstitutional. The defense attorneys are arguing that “marijuana does not fit the criteria of a Schedule I Controlled Substance” and shouldn’t have been used to target their client. “It's earth-shattering to even have this hearing,” says law Prof. Adam Levine of Stetson University in Gulfport, Fl. “The fact that the judge is willing to hear this case means she is willing to question if the DEA's original classification is constitutional.” He puts the chances of such a finding at “better than even.”