by Rick Thompson
On January 22nd a federal appeals court officially denied a petition to remove marijuana from a list of substances “with no accepted medical use.”
The petition had originally been filed in 2011 by Americans for Safe Access (ASA), Patients Out Of Time and the Coalition to Reschedule Cannabis (CRC) on behalf of several named litigants. The DEA’s 2011 decision to reject reclassification was the basis for the appeal. Despite ASA’s listing of over 200 peer-reviewed and published studies on the efficacy of marijuana, the federal appeals court agreed with the DEA and asserted these studies did not constitute “sufficient proof of medical efficacy itself.”
A 1999 study by the government-affiliated Institute of Medicine stated that “marijuana might have medical benefits,” per the federal Court. In the 13 years since the Report’s release, the DEA claims the scientific community has not met the standard of producing “adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy…” as required by their regulations. Marijuana is currently a Schedule 1 drug in America and any studies must be done with the approval of the DEA, an agency prone to denying the scientific community’s requests.
This assessment of a lack of medical proof, based on a report by the Department of Health and Human Services, forced the court to conclude, “something more than ‘peer-reviewed’ studies is required to satisfy DEA’s standard…” Eighteen states, including California, Michigan, Washington and Colorado, have approved the use of medical marijuana for their citizens despite the DEA’s objections.
Schedule 1 is a DEA classification reserved for substances with the highest risk of abuse and no demonstrable medical use. Activists have been trying to either remove marijuana from the controlled substances listing completely or to reclassify it as a less dangerous drug- a listing that would allow the kind of scientific studies the DEA has blocked for well over a decade. ASA says the “research approval process for marijuana… is unique, overly rigorous, and hinders meaningful therapeutic research.”
The 2011 petition filed with the DEA came after a nearly decade-long stalemate. The CRC petitioned the DEA in October 2002 to reschedule cannabis as a Schedule III, IV, or V drug; it took the DEA until July 8, 2011, to reject the petition- and that was only after a lawsuit forced them to make a decision. In their written denial the DEA states there is “no currently accepted medical use for marijuana in the United States…”.
In a written statement, ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford vowed to appeal the decision. “To deny that sufficient evidence is lacking on the medical efficacy of marijuana is to ignore a mountain of well-documented studies that conclude otherwise,” he said in the ASA press release. That organization promises an “En Banc review by the full D.C. Circuit and, if necessary, the organization will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
This time the legal target will be a different “arbitrary and capricious” action- that of “using continually changing standards of “medical efficacy” in order to maintain marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance,” per their Release. ASA calls attention to a pending comprehensive public health bill and a national conference in Washington, D.C. in February as rallying points for further action.
ASA’s Press Release from January 22, 2013: http://americansforsafeaccess.org/article.php?id=7474
Other articles of interest:
“When we the people ask the Obama Administration why they will not reschedule marijuana, they point to science. When we challenge the scientists, they point to the DEA as a restrictor of access for experimentation. When we confront the DEA, they point to policymakers in Washington and the Department of Justice.”- Rick Thompson
“We remain hopeful that the science on medical marijuana will prevail over politics in order to overcome the decades-long effort by the federal government to keep marijuana out of the reach of millions of Americans who would benefit from its use.”- ASA
“A federal lawsuit to force the DEA to reclassify marijuana for medical use will be heard by the D.C. Circuit on October 16th. The case Americans for Safe Access v. DEA is bringing the science of medical marijuana into federal court for the first time in nearly 20 years. If marijuana were reclassified, the five people being sentenced in Michigan would be entitled to a medical defense, a right they are now denied.”- ASA