In 1990, an indictment was issued for the arrest of Daniel and Lyrissa Touby after they were found to be manufacturing and to conspire to manufacture a drug named Euphoria. Previously, Euphoria had not been classified as a controlled substance, and the plaintiffs were free to manufacture it. However, the Attorney General, through the Drug Enforcement Agency, had temporarily designated Euphoria to be a controlled substance.
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The plaintiffs went to court to dismiss their indictment on the grounds that Section 201 of the Controlled Substances Act gives the Attorney General unconstitutional legislative power to deal with drug indictments. The plaintiffs also argued that the Attorney General temporarily assigned his ‘scheduling authority’ to another party (the Drug Enforcement Administration). The case was filed against the United States Government, whereby the defendant sought to have the indictments upheld.
The case was originally filed in New Jersey’s United States District Court. In the original filling, the plaintiffs singled out the Attorney General or the Department of Justice as the defendant. During the trial, judgment was passed in favor of the defendant, and the indictments against the plaintiff were upheld. The plaintiff appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Consequently, the trial court’s judgment was upheld in favor of the government. The case was presented to the Supreme Court, where it was argued on April 17 1991, and decided on May 20 1991.
The court had to argue whether the constitution through Section 201(h) of the Controlled Substances Act was violated. The actions of the Attorney General and his legislative powers in regards to his mandate under Section 201(h) of the Controlled Substances act were to be evaluated. The trial court had the responsibility of finding out whether by sub-delegating powers to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Attorney General acted unconstitutionally.
On May 20 1991, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Court of Appeals third Circuit by a 9-0 judgment. The court found the petitioners liable for their actions when they manufactured or conspired to manufacture Euphoria, a substance that had temporarily been classified as a ‘controlled substance’ by the Attorney General through the Drug Enforcement Administration Agency. The unanimous judgment was passed pursuant to Section 201(h) of the Controlled substance Act, 98 Statute 21 U.S.C 811(h).
The Supreme Court’s decision was informed by the Controlled Substances Act, which was passed by Congress in 1970. This legislation classified controlled substances into five categories or ‘schedules’. All the five categories of controlled substances were consequently regulated and they would only be manufactured, possessed, or distributed in accordance with their categorization. Under the Controlled Substances Act, the Attorney General is at liberty to change the schedules of various substances and place them higher or lower according to their composition. The law stipulates the procedure that the Attorney General uses to schedule controlled substances.
First, the Attorney General requests for a scientific inquest from the Secretary of Human Services. The law also stipulates the eight separate factors that determine how a particular substance can be categorized. These factors include a substance’s susceptibility to abuse by its users, evidence of its medical effects, its ability to make users psychologically dependent, and tangible evidence of abuse among its users. In classifying substances, the Attorney General is required to comply with the ‘notice and hearing provisions’ of the Administrative Procedure Act. The process to schedule a substance takes a duration of 6 to 12 months.
The Act also serves to prevent drug dealers from continuing to manufacture a controlled substance by producing a ‘designer’ drug that is similar to the prohibited one so as to bypass the 6-12 month period that is the mandatory waiting period for a change in scheduling. The plaintiffs had also raised the issue of separation of powers: “Section 201(h) does not violate the principle of separation of powers by concentrating too much power in the Attorney General, who also wields the power to prosecute crimes” (Touby v. United States, 1991).
When delivering their judgment, the judges noted that the temporary scheduling order that was issued by the Attorney General was within the confines of Section 201(h) of the Controlled Substances Act. According to the judgment, “Section 201(h) does not violate the non-delegation doctrine by barring judicial review, since 507 of the Act plainly authorizes judicial review of a permanent scheduling order, the effect of the 201(h)” (Touby v. United States, 1991).
Furthermore, the judges ruled that by giving the Attorney General power to schedule drugs, the intentions of the Congress and the Controlled Substances Act were not undermined. The judgment also explored the plaintiffs’ claims that “the Attorney General improperly delegated his temporary scheduling power to the DEA… delegation within the Executive Branch is permitted only to the extent authorized by Congress, and that Congress did not authorize the delegation of temporary scheduling power from the Attorney General to the DEA” (Touby v. United States, 1991).
According to the judges, Section 50(a) of the Controlled Substances Act allows the Attorney General to delegate any of his roles to any member of staff within the Department of Justice. The Judges conclude their judgment by affirming the decision of the Court of Appeals, Third Circuit.
Touby v. United States, 500 U.S. 160 (1991).