Image of Judge Kimberly Mueller
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A federal judge in Sacramento on Wednesday upheld the constitutionality of a 1970 federal law that classifies marijuana as a dangerous drug akin to LSD and heroin.
 
U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller took the extraordinary step of holding a five-day hearing on the question late last year, raising the hopes of activists that she might strike down the classification.
 
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, known as NORML, said Mueller concluded that it was up to Congress to decide the matter.
 
“We applaud Judge Mueller for having the courage to hear this issue and provide it the careful consideration it deserves,” said Paul Armentano, NORML’s deputy director. “While we are disappointed with this ruling, it changes little. We always felt this had to ultimately be decided by the 9th Circuit and we have an unprecedented record for the court to consider.”
 
Mueller’s examination of marijuana’s position on the federal government’s list of most dangerous drugs  was the first by a judge in decades. It came in response to a pretrial defense motion in a prosecution brought by the federal government against alleged marijuana growers.
 
Mueller announced her decision in her Sacramento courtroom during a hearing on a case. A written ruling has not yet been issued.
 
Dale Gieringer, director of the California branch of NORML, said Mueller assured the litigants she had examined the case closely but had to tread lightly in considering whether to overturn a law Congress passed.
 
 
He said her decision could not be appealed until after the criminal case against the growers was resolved.  A trial is not expected until late this year or early next year.
 
“This is on a very slow train,” Gieringer said.
 
A pro-marijuana news blog that has been covering the case reported that Mueller said the matter was for Congress to decide.
 
“At some point in time, a court may decide this status to be unconstitutional,” the leafonline.com quoted Mueller as saying. “But this is not the court and not the time.”
 
Scott Chipman, Southern California chairman of a group called Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana, said he was pleased with the ruling but found it “disturbing” that Mueller had even conducted a fact-finding hearing on the issue.
 
“There is a false sense that marijuana legalization is on the move, when we are seeing a huge pushback against legalization, particularly in small towns against the country,” Chipman said. “It is a seriously harmful drug that is much stronger than it was in the '70s  and is getting stronger by the month.”
 
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