Appeals Court To Review DEA’s Dismissal Of Cannabis Rescheduling Petition

Washington,  DC: The U.S.  Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hearopening arguments next week in  a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s refusal to consider  reclassifying cannabis as a schedule I prohibited substance under federal law.

At  issue in the case is whether the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) acted appropriately  when the agency last year denied an administrative petition – initially filed  by a coalition of public interest organizations, including NORML, in 2002 –  that called on the agency to initiate hearings to reassess the present  classification of cannabis.

Under federal law, schedule I substances must  possess three specific criteria: “a high potential for abuse;” “no currently  accepted medical use in treatment;” and “a lack of accepted safety for the use  of the drug … under medical supervision.”  In its 2011 denial of petitioners’ rescheduling request, DEA Administrator  Michele Leonhart alleged that cannabis possesses all three criteria, claiming: “[T]here are no adequate  and well-controlled studies proving (marijuana’s) efficacy; the drug is not  accepted by qualified experts. … At  this time, the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be  outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that  scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.”

By contrast, a recent scientific review of  clinical trials evaluating the safety and efficacy of cannabis concluded,  “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not  tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that  information on safety is lacking.”

Commenting on the  upcoming hearing in a press release, Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans  for Safe Access (ASA) said: “Medical marijuana patients are finally  getting their day in court. What’s at stake in this case is nothing less than  our country’s scientific integrity and the imminent needs of millions of  patients.” Elford will be arguing  the case before the D.C. Circuit. Oral  arguments in the case are scheduled for Monday, October 16th.

NORML previously filed a similar rescheduling  petition with the DEA in 1972, but was not granted a federal hearing on the  issue until 1986. In 1988, DEA Administrative  Law Judge Francis Young ruled that marijuana did not meet the legal criteria of a Schedule I  prohibited drug and should be reclassified.  Then-DEA Administrator John Lawn rejected Young’s determination, a  decision the D.C. Court of Appeals eventually affirmed in 1994.

A subsequent petition was filed by former NORML  Director Jon Gettman in 1995, but was rejected by the DEA in 2001.

Further information on the  lawsuit is available at: http://safeaccessnow.org. Additional information  on the 2002 petition to reschedule cannabis is available at: http://www.drugscience.org/.

Leave a Reply