As many people know, the federal government classifies certain drugs according to a schedule. In fact, the Drug Enforcement Agency is permitted by statute to make the rules which determine in which class a particular drug belongs. Criminal statutes and penalties are enacted based on those classifications. Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous and the most addictive. Examples of Schedule I drugs are heroin and LSD. Schedule V drugs are the least dangerous. An example of a Schedule V drug is the cough medicine Robitussin.
Despite Schedule I including the most dangerous and addictive drugs and substances that have no accepted medical value, cannabis, or marijuana, is still considered a Schedule I drug. Basically, the federal government is saying marijuana is just as bad as heroin and bath salts. Also, despite the fact that doctors all over the country, and all over Florida, are prescribing marijuana to patients to treat a variety of medical conditions, the federal government is saying that marijuana has no accepted medical use. By definition, in order to be a Schedule I drug, a substance must have no accepted medical value.
This kind of government ignorance and corruption would be silly if it wasn’t resulting in people going to prison for having marijuana. In some marijuana cases, criminal defense lawyers are making the legal argument that it is not constitutional to punish a person for having a Schedule I drug that has no medical use when we are dealing with a substance that medical doctors all over Florida and the country (and all over the world) are prescribing to patients for medicinal purposes. That seems like an obvious and logical argument that cannot lose in any tribunal where logic and reason are considered useful tools for decision making. However, anyone who believes logic should win the day underestimates just how backwards our government is, and just how addicted government officials are on campaign donations from billion dollar pharmaceutical companies. Financial influence is a formidable opponent of reason and justice.
These arguments are being made in Florida courts. And they are losing. In a recent trafficking in cannabis case near Jacksonville, Florida, the police executed a search warrant at the defendant’s home and found numerous marijuana plants. He was charged with trafficking in cannabis which carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence in Florida, which is a huge waste of taxpayers’ dollars. The criminal defense lawyer attacked the constitutionality of the Florida statute which considers cannabis a Schedule I drug consistent with the federal rules. The criminal defense attorney argued that since medical marijuana recently became legal by amendment to the Florida Constitution, marijuana cannot be a Schedule I drug which can only include substances with no accepted medical value. While the new Florida amendment does not specifically overrule the Florida statute classifying marijuana as a Schedule I drug, the two laws are obviously incompatible.
This is an argument that must be successful with the application of any semblance of logic. The state’s counterargument is not clear from the opinion. Perhaps, no clear argument was made. Essentially, the state argued there was no conflict, despite the obvious and direct conflict that anyone can see. Additionally, the state argued that it is up to the legislature, not the courts, to fix this conflict that apparently does not exist, as if the judicial branch’s job is no longer to interpret Florida statutes and the Constitution.
The court, of course, ruled in favor of the state. The court’s opinion relies on technical, legal rhetoric that is completely divorced from any logical, reasonable or fact-based understanding of cannabis. Finally, while the court did acknowledge the “apparent discrepancies” between the Florida medical marijuana amendment and the drug schedule, the court punted to the legislature. However, the court failed to mention in its opinion how people are getting criminal records and being incarcerated every day in Florida because of these “apparent discrepancies”. We are confident the court is aware of this fact. However, apparently, that is someone else’s problem.
It is a shame how deeply ingrained the complete ignorance about marijuana is in our government and criminal justice system. It is more troubling how easily people in government dismiss the ongoing effects of the war on drugs which is fueled by this willful ignorance. Very slowly, changes are coming. However, this state’s and the country’s marijuana policies are doing significant damage in the meantime, as they torture a reasonable application of the law.