(From the NORML Weekly News, 1/15, courtesy the NORML Foundation, http://www.norml.org)
January 15, 1998, Washington, D.C.: The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently determined that sufficient grounds exist to justify proceedings re-evaluating marijuana's prohibitive Schedule I status. As a result, the agency has formally requested the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct "a scientific and medical evaluation of the available data and provide a scheduling recommendation" for marijuana and other cannabinoid drugs.
The DEA's action is in response to an administrative petition filed by former NORML National Director Jon Gettman and Trans High Corporation -- publisher of High Times Magazine -- on July 10, 1995. The petition argues that marijuana and cannabinoid drugs lack the "high potential for abuse" required for Schedule I and Schedule II drugs under the provisions of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Gettman notes that the DEA has never before voluntarily referred a marijuana petition to HHS for binding review.
"People are sent to jail every day because of mistaken assumptions about the abuse potential of marijuana," Gettman said. "[This] petition observes that HHS has never produced a finding that marijuana actually has the high potential for abuse similar to heroin or cocaine required for Schedule I or Schedule II status. Furthermore, the legislative history of the CSA indicates that Congress only intended for marijuana to remain in Schedule I or Schedule II if such a finding could be produced. This petition challenges the government to produce such a finding or be legally required to end marijuana prohibition by removing marijuana from Schedule I."
Gettman initially asked the Department of Justice in 1994 to request this evaluation from HHS. At that time, DEA Administrator Thomas Constantine argued that the agency was "unaware of any new scientific studies of marijuana that would lead [it] to re-evaluate [marijuana's] classification at this time." Constantine then challenged Gettman to provide documentation indicating that new research had taken place. Gettman responded by filing his 1995 petition.
"The recent referral of the petition to HHS is an acknowledgment by DEA of deficiencies in their familiarity with scientific studies of marijuana, and of the validity of [my] argument and its documented scientific basis," Gettman said.
Petitioners are represented by Michael Kennedy, Esq. of New York City, a member of the NORML Legal Committee. For more information, please contact either the law offices of Michael Kennedy @ (212) 935-4500 or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.