Legalization not really on his radar
So where does that leave the presumptive attorney general?
Throughout his career as a judge and federal prosecutor, Merrick Garland has had very little to say about cannabis.
His most direct comments on the subject date back to 2012, during a federal hearing on the scheduling of cannabis. In that hearing, cannabis advocates sought to challenge the federal government’s classification of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug—the most restrictive category, reserved for “drugs of abuse” with no proven medical value.
Appearing before Merrick Garland two other federal judges, Joe Elford, counsel for medical cannabis advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, argued that the federal government had “failed to weigh the evidence” in considering the plant’s medicinal value, and that the DEA’s “bias” against cannabis was the only way the “federal government could conclude that marijuana is as harmful as heroin and PCP and even more harmful than methamphetamine, cocaine and opium.”
At one point in the proceedings, Garland asked a question that seemed to give the DEA the benefit of the doubt, as reported at the time by the LA Times.
“Don’t we have to defer to their judgment” on what the medical studies show? asked Judge Merrick Garland. “We’re not scientists. They are.”
Ultimately, the three-judge panel denied the petitioners’ challenge to the DEA, killing off one of many attempts over the last few decades to use the federal courts to challenge the scheduling of cannabis in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.