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Medical Marijuana Group Appeals DEA Rescheduling Decision

Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's leading medical marijuana advocacy group, last Thursday filed an appeal challenging the Obama administration's recent decision to keep marijuana classified as a dangerous drug with no medicinal value. The appeal comes just two weeks after the DEA belatedly denied a 2002 petition seeking to have marijuana removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

Schedule I is reserved for drugs that have "a high potential for abuse," "no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States" and "a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision."

In refusing to down-schedule marijuana, the DEA ignored the 1988 ruling of its own Administrative Law Judge Francis Young, who found, "Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man." Since then, medical marijuana has been approved in 16 states and the District of Columbia, and the scientific literature on the medical efficacy of marijuana has become enormous.

ASA said it will argue in a forthcoming appeal brief that the federal government decision was not supported by the evidence and that it erred in refusing to down-schedule marijuana.

"By ignoring the wealth of scientific evidence that clearly shows the therapeutic value of marijuana, the Obama Administration is playing politics at the expense of sick and dying Americans," said ASA chief counsel Joe Elford. "For the first time in more than 15 years we will be able to present evidence in court to challenge the government's flawed position on medical marijuana."

ASA and other medical marijuana advocates viewed the DEA refusal to reschedule marijuana less as a defeat than as an opportunity to get the matter before the courts. The last time, the federal bench dealt with the medical efficacy of marijuana was in 1994, and the case for therapeutic cannabis has only grown stronger since then.

Washington, DC
United States

DEA Denies Marijuana Rescheduling Petition

The DEA last Friday denied a petition asking the federal government to reschedule marijuana out of Schedule l of the Controlled Substances Act. The petition had languished within the caverns of federal bureaucracies for nine years, but the agency finally moved to deny it two months after medical marijuana advocates filed a lawsuit to compel the government to act.

Marijuana has no accepted medical use, the DEA claims. (image via
The Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis had sought to reclassify marijuana on a lesser schedule, arguing that current science does not allow for it to be classified as a Schedule I drug. Such substances must have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in the US, and a lack of accepted safety for use.

While marijuana has abuse potential, a DEA judge in 1989 cited it as one of the safest therapeutic substances known to man, and it is currently being used as a legal medicine under the laws of 15 states and the District of Columbia. But DEA officials overruled their own judge and left marijuana in Schedule I.

DEA attitudes toward marijuana [Ed: and toward science] have not changed much in 20 years -- in Friday's Federal Register, the agency wrote: "Marijuana continues to meet the criteria for schedule I control under the CSA because marijuana has a high potential for abuse, marijuana has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and marijuana lacks accepted safety for use under medical supervision."

Given that marijuana is being used medically in states across the country, it is worth a bit deeper look  into the DEA's rationale for saying it has no currently accepted medical use. "According to established case law, marijuana has no 'currently accepted medical use' because the drug’s chemistry is not known and reproducible; there are no adequate safety studies; there are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts; and the scientific evidence is not widely available," the DEA claimed.

"Although this superficially looks like a defeat for the medical marijuana community, it simply maintains the status quo" said Joe Elford, chief counsel for coalition member Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and lead counsel in the recent lawsuit. "More importantly, however, we have foiled the  government's strategy of delay and we can now go head-to-head on the merits, that marijuana really does have therapeutic value."

Americans for Safe Access said it plans to appeal the denial of the petition to the DC Circuit Court as soon as possible. The group noted that the denial was dated June 30, one day after the Justice Department issued a memo threatening to prosecute commercial medical marijuana operations and even state and local officials who attempt to implement state medical marijuana laws.

"The federal government is making no bones about its aggressive policy to undermine medical marijuana," said ASA executive director Steph Sherer, "And we're prepared to take the Obama administration to court over it."

The group also noted that the petition denial comes in the same week as the 21st annual symposium of the International Cannabinoid Research Society, which is sponsored in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and Elsohly Laboratories, the federal government's only licensed source of research-grade marijuana, and an array of pharmaceutical companies interested in asking the government to reschedule organic THC so they can sell a generic version of Marinol, which is now produced synthetically.

"The government cannot have it both ways; marijuana is either a medicine or it's not," continued Sherer. "If the government is going to sponsor a conference on medical marijuana, it should show the same deference to the millions of patients across America who simply want access to it."

Washington, DC
United States

Groups Sue Feds Over Marijuana Rescheduling Petition Delay

A coalition of medical marijuana and drug reform groups filed suit in federal court in Washington, DC, Monday in a bid to force the government to act on a rescheduling petition that has languished at the DEA for nearly nine years. The lawsuit asks that the government respond to the petition within 60 days.

The DEA has had more than enough time to issue a ruling on a marijuana rescheduling petition. (Image via
The petition argues that marijuana has accepted medical use and should thus be removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia currently allow for the medicinal use of marijuana, and an ever-increasing mountain of evidence has shown marijuana to be effective in treating a number of diseases and conditions.

The groups filing the lawsuit include the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC), Americans for Safe Access (ASA), Patients Out of Time, NORML, and California NORML. Also included are medical marijuana patients William Britt, Kathy Jordan, Michael Krawitz, and Rick Steeb.

"The federal government's strategy has been delay, delay, delay," said Joe Elford, chief counsel of ASA and lead counsel on the writ. "It is far past time for the government to answer our rescheduling petition, but unfortunately we've been forced to go to court in order to get resolution."

"Adhering to outdated public policy that ignores science has created a war zone for doctors and their patients who are seeking use cannabis therapeutics," said ASA director Steph Sherer.

"It is unacceptable for seriously ill Americans to wait a decade for their government to even respond to their petition for legal access to medicine to relieve their pain and suffering," said California NORML director Dale Gieringer. "The government's unreasonable delay seriously impugns its competence to oversee Americans' health care. The administration should act promptly to address its obsolete and bankrupt policy in accordance with President Obama's pledge to put science above politics."

"The Obama administration's refusal to act on this petition is an irresponsible stalling tactic," said Jon Gettman of the CRC.

This isn't the first time the DEA has failed to act on a marijuana rescheduling petition. NORML filed a petition in 1972. That time, it took the DEA 22 years to reject it, overruling its own administrative judge's finding that marijuana did have accepted medical use. Since then, the case for the medicinal use of marijuana has only grown stronger.

Forcing the DEA to act on the petition is a win-win for reformers. If the DEA concludes that marijuana does have medicinal value, it must be rescheduled. If the DEA concludes it does not, that finding can then be challenged in the federal courts.

Washington, DC
United States

DEA in New Spokane Medical Marijuana Dispensary Raid

In the latest round of the federal assault on medical marijuana in Washington state, the Cannabis Defense Coalition reports that the DEA conducted a Wednesday afternoon raid on Medical Herb Providers, one of the few dispensaries left in the city after a flurry of federal raids last month. It's not clear whether any other dispensaries are being targeted.

Spokane River
According to the CDC, a Medical Herb Provider manager reported that one employee was arrested.

The raids today and last month come as the state legislature and Gov. Chris Gregoire are struggling to come up with legislation to provide some sense of what is and is not allowed under the state's medical marijuana law. It currently does not explicitly allow for dispensaries, but that hasn't stopped dozens, perhaps more than a hundred, from opening.

Late last month, at least two Spokane area dispensaries were raided. Those raids came three weeks after the US Attorney for Eastern Washington, Michael Ormsby, warned the then 40 dispensaries in the area that they should shut down or face federal action.

The letter from Ormsby and a similar one from his counterpart in Western Washington, were crucial in persuading Gov. Gregoire to veto the portions of a medical marijuana patient registry and dispensary bill. They warned that state employees who licensed or registered medical marijuana businesses could be subject to federal prosecution.

Now, as Gregoire and the legislature tussle over what to do about medical marijuana, the feds are reminding everyone that they haven't gone anywhere.

Spokane, WA
United States

28 Raids in 24 Hours!? Tell Attorney General Holder to Stop Federal Raids of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries (Action Alert)

Tell Attorney General Holder:
Stop federal raids
of medical marijuana dispensaries

» Sign the petition


28 raids in 24 hours.That's the unfortunate reality for medical marijuana patients in Montana and California.

Federal agents shutdown 26 dispensaries across Montana and 2 in the medical marijuana sanctuary city of West Hollywood, California this month in their latest attack on patients and legitimate businesses.

The DEA isn't even supposed to be conducting these raids in the first place. In 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder issued a memo ordering an end to federal raids of medical marijuana dispensaries. Yet, despite his memo, federal agents have continued these operations sporadically for years, without regard for patients', states' or business' rights.

Attorney General Eric Holder clearly doesn't have control of his own cavalry. This assault on patients rights has to stop now.

Sign our letter telling Attorney General Holder to enforce his memo and prohibit federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries.

Click here to sign the letter:

But is Holder being dishonest and hypocritical? Or does he simply lack strong leadership among US Attorneys General?

A memo issued on February 1st by US Attorney Melinda Haag (who, ironically, represents Northern California) directly contradicts Holder’s edict. She declares that ANYONE engaging in the buying or selling of marijuana, regardless of their protection under state laws, will be punished by the federal government.

That doesn’t just mean dispensaries and the patients who rely on them, but goes as far as to include landlords, financiers and property owners as well. It’s a full-court press designed to intimidate supporters of reform and ostracize patients seeking their prescribed medications.

This attitude puts lives in jeopardy and undermines our democratic institutions by foiling state attempts to provide solutions for their own people. We need to put an end to the federal harassment of medical marijuana patients now.

Tell Attorney General Holder to enforce his own memo banning federal raids of medical marijuana dispensaries and take a stand for patients rights.

Click here to add your name:

This kind of official hypocrisy at the expense of our most vulnerable citizens is a disgrace to the notion of basic human rights everywhere. Thank you for standing up for a patients’ basic rights to treatment.

Thanks for all you do.

Brian Sonenstein
Just Say


Contribute to Just Say Now to support marijuana legalization. Click here:

Federally-Approved Medical Marijuana Patient Stumps Through Montana

United States
Irvin Rosenfeld, as one of only a few surviving federal medical marijuana patients was in Montana, stumping for what he calls a 'Wonderdrug.' Every month, the federal government sends Rosenfeld his medicine: 360 rolled marijuana cigarettes. He suffers from a rare disorder that produces tumors at the end of long bones. "I haven't developed a new tumor or had an existing one grow since I was 21, which was 37 years ago, and I attribute that to my medicine: medical cannabis," he said.

Montana Senate Nixes Medical Marijuana Repeal Amidst DEA Raids

A move to repeal Montana's voter-approved 2004 medical marijuana law died in a state Senate committee Monday on a tie vote. The measure had passed the House, but members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said what was needed was regulation, not repeal.

Neither Montana's reactionaries nor the DEA can make medical marijuana go away. (Image courtesy Coaster420)
After the vote, committee Chair Terry Murphy (D-Cardwell) appointed a three-member subcommittee to work on a bill to tighten regulations over marijuana. But another legislative committee has already crafted regulatory legislation that is working its way through the legislature.

Even as senators were debating the measure, the DEA and other federal law enforcement agencies assisted by local law enforcement conducted raids against at least 10 medical marijuana dispensaries or grow operations across the state.

One business hit was the Montana Cannabis greenhouse near Helena, where the company grows more than 1,600 plants to supply its four dispensaries across the state. DEA and FBI wearing respirators conducted the raid while sheriff's deputies and Helena Police stood guard. The company's four dispensaries were all hit, too.

"They came in guns drawn, got us down on the ground, and in cuffs as fast as they could," Montana Cannabis employee Brett Thompson told the Associated Press. No arrests were made, except for one person wanted on an outstanding warrant.

A search warrant for a raid in Bozeman listed 13 items to be seized in an investigation of "drug trafficking," including cash, plants, products, computers, and data storage devices. But the affidavit used to obtain the search warrant, which would provide some basis for alleging criminal offenses had taken place, has not been released.

The Obama Justice Department in October 2009 sent a policy memo to all US Attorneys directing them to not use their resources against medical marijuana patients and providers complying with state law in states where it is legal. But in Montana, as well as other medical marijuana states including Michigan, Nevada, and Washington, dispensaries have opened without being explicitly protected by state law. The Montana law allows caregivers to provide marijuana to patients and receive compensation, but does mention dispensaries. The fix is in the legislature, as was the case in Colorado.

Helena, MT
United States

Bolivia President Evo Morales Attacks Drug Reports

Bolivian president Evo Morales has accused the United States and the United Nations of conspiring to defame his government in two drug reports. He said criticism over Bolivia's handling of the war on drugs were part of a strategy to falsely link his government to drug trafficking. Morales said the US was trying to force him to invite American anti-narcotics agents back into Bolivia.
BBC News (UK)

ACLU: DEA’s Politics Are Keeping Cannabis-Based Medicines Off Shelves

After a decade of waging a hard-fought battle with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, which repeatedly denied his application for the production of medical marijuana, Dr. Lyle E. Craker, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, said he would call it quits, resigning his fight in bitter defeat. The ACLU released its final brief on Craker's case, which calls on the DEA to grant research permits for the production of medical cannabis. They flatly state that cannabis medicines have not yet cleared the Food and Drug Administration because of the DEA's pernicious politics and tight monopoly on the granting of production licenses.
The Raw Story (DC)

Morales: DEA Not Coming Back to Bolivia‎

The arrest of Bolivia's top counternarcotics cop, Rene Sanabria, has not changed President Morales' stance on allowing the DEA into the country. Morales insisted he has no intention of inviting the DEA back. He alleged "interests of a geopolitical nature" were behind the Sanabria case. "They are using police to try to implicate the government," he said. Vice minister of social defense, Felipe Caceres, suggested that Sanabria's arrest was the DEA's revenge for being expelled. The president also hinted at U.S. hypocrisy, recalling reports that American agents ran guns to Nicaraguan Contra rebels in the 1980s with the proceeds of cocaine sales in the United States.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA)

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