Pittsburgh NORML executive director, Patrick Nightingale, intends to use the very logic of prohibitionist laws in order to dismantle them.
The essence of his argument is pretty simple. Since Pennsylvania recognizes the legitimacy of cannabis as medicine by their laws, that negates the drug scheduling claim that marijuana has no medicinal benefits, and prohibition cannabis in general is based on that logic. So if the state says it is medicine, then they cannot say it should be treated or prosecuted as a schedule one drug.
From Next Pittsburgh:
In April 2016 Governor Tom Wolf signed into law Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act, or Act 16, legalizing medical cannabis for PA residents with serious medical conditions.
Now, a Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney believes the new medical law gives him standing to challenge how Pennsylvania classifies recreational marijuana, which is still illegal in Pennsylvania and is classified as a “Schedule One” controlled substance.
The Pennsylvania Code classifies Schedule One drugs as those that have “a high potential for abuse; no currently accepted medical use in the United States; and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.”
This places marijuana alongside other Schedule One drugs such as heroin, cocaine, LSD, psilocybin, and bath salts.
Patrick Nightingale, executive director of Pittsburgh NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and one of the leading advocates behind Pittsburgh’s recent marijuana decriminalization ordinance, argues that Pennsylvania’s new medical marijuana law means that marijuana “cannot possibly meet the definition of a Schedule One substance.”
“The legislature specifically found as a matter of legislative intent that marijuana has medical potential and that it has the potential to alleviate up to 17 qualifying conditions that they put in the act,” says Nightingale, “and they created a regulated system of growing, processing and distributing medical marijuana for qualifying patients.”
He adds that to prosecute some Pennsylvanians with possession of a Schedule One controlled substance while medical marijuana patients are not prosecuted is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
“I think that is a fundamental denial of equal protection by treating similarly situated individuals radically different.”
Nightingale will use this argument in an upcoming legal case where he is representing a man busted with a small grow operation. While he acknowledges that winning would not topple prohibition laws, they would help to chip away at their foundation.
The main problem with this method is that it could spur the DEA to reschedule cannabis, which could throw a major monkey wrench into current progress while coporatizing cannabis.
Schedule 1 substances are considered to have no medicinal value. As such, those substances are not subject to the regulations of agencies like the Food and Drug Administration. In places where cannabis has been legalized, the products being manufactured and sold have not been under the scrutiny of federal regulators. But if it were to be reclassified as a Schedule 2 substance, it would then fall within the scope of federal codes.
This would mean that every strain and product currently made from cannabis, as well as the methods of distribution, would become illegal until they passed through the red tape of Washington D.C. And in all likelihood, many businesses and products would be shut down, and those that survived might be hung up in years of bureaucratic and legal jiggery pokery.
This would not just place current paradigms in a disadvantage, it would favor big pharma with its bottomless pockets. Could the entire push to reclassify just be a consequence of secret lobbyist agendas to destroy the current industry and make room for the big time medicine men to take over?
And it is not just the cannabis industry that needs to worry. Schedule 2 classification would also make it illegal to grow your own. This would make medical patients and other users dependent on the state-sanctioned corporations that have, historically, cared far less about health than their own bottom lines.