A federal judge in California declined Wednesday to remove marijuana from the list of most dangerous drugs.
U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller issued the ruling in response to a motion by defense attorneys to dismiss charges in a case that authorities say involves a marijuana growing operation.
The case was unusual in that Mueller decided to consider marijuana’s designation as a Schedule 1 drug. Schedule 1 drugs include heroin and LSD and are defined as drugs with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
Marijuana’s classification as a Schedule 1 drug has brought states that have legalized medical marijuana into conflict with federal authorities, leading to raids on growers and dispensaries that appear to be operating legally under state law.
Legal experts said it marked the first time in decades that a federal district court judge seriously considered marijuana’s classification. Judges have generally accepted the classification and the federal ban on its use, growth and distribution.
Mueller’s decision was expected, but her move to hold a hearing last year to consider the issue marked a significant step that reflects growing skepticism about federal marijuana law, said Sam Kamin, a marijuana regulation expert at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.
“While this one came out the other way, what you see is a lot of momentum in changing federal marijuana law,” he said.
Mueller said during a 15-minute court hearing that she was initially prepared to grant the defense motion but then decided from the facts of this particular case that “this is not the court and this is not the time.” She said she decided it was up to Congress to change the law if it wishes.