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DEA Denies Marijuana Rescheduling Petition

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #692)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

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."

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


disgusted (not verified)

Marijuana DOES have medical benefit. It is NOT addictive. If anyone reads the testimonies of the physicians of the 1930's, when enacting the Marijuana Stamp Tax, they stated the addiction to marijuana was akin to the addiction to 'luxury'. A very good comparison. I failed a scheduled drug test 30 days post some primo weed, thank goodness I am not in pain (occasional migraine & cannabis helps). Clean ever since but still unemployed. Anyway why is there a federal marijuana exemption? Lies on top of lies. The lies have bee told so many times it does not even matter. Gateway my ass! No one dies of pot, no one overdoses, I am 50 years old & I do not see cannabis being accepted in my lifetime. And another thing, Obama did not betray users, he never embraced the cause. The only thing that will make cannabis legal is intelligence and a massive truth campaign. The DEA is absolutely incorrect. NO ONE IS ADDICTED TO OR HAS EVER DIED FROM MARIJUANA AND ANYONE WHO DOES NOT BELIEVE THIS IS A FOOL!

Fri, 07/08/2011 - 10:18pm Permalink
knowa (not verified)

The DEA is paid to uphold lies by their own charter how ever I think   cannabis POW should sue for damages and reparation for their lies .America is still a government of the  people

Fri, 07/08/2011 - 10:50pm Permalink
Moonrider (not verified)

In reply to by knowa (not verified)

I've often wondered why no cannabis arrestee has ever had his/her case fought by the attorney for the defense arguing the complete and utter unconstitutionality of any laws prohibiting one's right to ingest whatever one wishes to ingest.  The very first and most important right of property is the right to determine what one does with one's own body.  Yet I've never heard of that argument being used in a trial.

I would like to see all currently incarcerated on cannabis charges join together in a class action lawsuit against the prohibition and against the DEA, the ONDCP, the drug czars (all of them, present and past) and every AG (including Holder) and prosecutor in the country who has tried a cannabis case all named as defendants, too.  

Anyone know any lawyer(s) who would be willing to prosecute such a class action suit?  I'm sure any current defendants who don't want to take a plea would be willing to participate as one of the plaintiffs in such a class action lawsuit, and so (I bet) would most who are already convicted and facing incarceration, or already serving time.  The attorneys would make a name for themselves, be well compensated by their percentage of the award, and tho the plaintiffs may not, individually, make much moola off the case if they win, they would be freed from current or future incarceration and their criminal record wiped of the charges if their case is won.

Sat, 07/16/2011 - 4:38am Permalink
saynotohypocrisy (not verified)

Why make one bald faced lie when you can make two? Michele Liarheart's jihad against peaceful cannabis users and against an essential medicine rolls on. But maybe the courts will get real this time around.

Any claim that cannabis is ANYWHERE near as dangerous as alcohol is a degenerate lie. The alcohol first last and only gang knows this, that's why they permanently have refused to have a dialogue on the subject ('just say no' had a double meaning, no to drugs excepts ours, and no to an honest discussion of the subject).

Sat, 07/09/2011 - 11:17am Permalink
bc (not verified)

Obama's response at the recent twitter townhall meeting, to a question about cutting spending by ending the war on drugs, was beyond glib.  Talking around the point, he indicated his commitment to fighting against drug king pins.  This means, he is pretending to not understand the question.  Because he obviously realizes that they would cease to exist if legality were restored.  It is disingenuous, and at a time of desperate attempts to increase revenue and reduce is time for one of the most obvious solutions.  Yet politics prevails and it is disgusting.  He says the American public does not want revolutionary ideas...but those who voted for him actually do!  This is exactly what is needed, and before it is too late.  Perhaps once re-elected he can stop pretending and pandering to the conservative voters...none of whom will vote for him anyway.  Meanwhile, he is fully aware that people die everyday and others and their families suffer in jail, unemployment and mistreatment because of these laws.  He is too smart to continue to pretend he does not know the truth.  Maybe after a possible re-election, but I'm losing faith as his actions of late are outrageous!

Sun, 07/10/2011 - 1:12pm Permalink
Tony Aroma (not verified)


I'm no lawyer, but a couple of things occurred to me regarding the DEA having control over the classification of controlled substances.
The first is the obvious conflict of interest.  The DEA makes the laws that the DEA enforces.  The DEA's entire raison d'être is to enforce laws against Schedule 1 controlled substances.  So there is zero incentive for the DEA to remove any substance from Schedule 1 as that would impact their bottom line.  Especially since they don't have to answer to anyone for their decisions or behavior.
Second, since when are non-elected officials permitted to make laws?  I thought legislation was the province of the legislative branch of our government.  Michele Leonhart was appointed by the president, as was the Attorney General.  When did we start giving presidential appointees the power to make decisions that affect the laws of the land?
Seems to me, not being a lawyer, that either of these would be more productive grounds for a lawsuit than trying to win the DEA over with facts and science.  Especially since it's been well established that science has nothing whatsoever to do with drug policy.
Sun, 07/10/2011 - 2:38pm Permalink
Robert G. (not verified)

In reply to by Tony Aroma (not verified)

Unfortunately this is true of a great many administrative agencies and their enabling statutes in both the federal gov't and the states, and for all I know many other countries.  There was the Touhy case at which I attended oral argument at the US Supreme Ct. in the 1990s where the temporary scheduling power of DEA was challenged on the basis of the separation of powers principle, but the judges unanimously upheld it.

If you think this is bad with DEA, what do you think about FDA, which does much more of the same?  Or EPA?  These federal agencies have all been delegated the power to classify products as to whether they are or aren't subject to their jurisdiction at all, and all of them have enforcement arms which then act according to those decisions. 

Thu, 07/14/2011 - 10:56pm Permalink
Moonrider (not verified)

In reply to by Robert G. (not verified)


This is something that goes completely against the Constitution, these agencies are initially unconstitutional, and giving them the power to make law is an even worse Constitutional crime.  Just because the SCOTUS upholds something the federal government does, does not make that activity/program/law Constitutional; SCOTUS gets it wrong many more times than it gets it right.  Frequently their decisions are based more on the biases of the justices than on the Constitution.

Sat, 07/16/2011 - 5:14am Permalink
pixie power (not verified)

In reply to by Moonrider (not verified)

I wish I knew how to file a class action suit against the war on drugs. It seems like it is unconstitutional. I guess the reason no lawyer has taken up this matter is because there is too much money in defense

Thu, 03/31/2016 - 4:31pm Permalink
Weed Addict (not verified)

sorry, if we're going to be truthful here, I would like to point out that it is extremely psychologically addictive for some people, even more so than a luxury. this is coming from my own personal experiences. it's more like a requirement to go about the day happily than a luxury. if an addict doesnt have it, they will surely battle with depression for days perhaps weeks. THIS is why the old timers wanna keep it illegal, they dont wanna see an ENTIRE nation of stoners!  this is coming from a marijuana addict who is trying to find another bag...


but to say it has no medical applications! thats a blatant  insult to the intelligence of modern day Americans.


all I'm saying is if you want them to take you seriously.... be truthful about the disadvantages to marijuana use, such as ADDICTION. right now i see liars on both sides....

Mon, 07/11/2011 - 2:20pm Permalink
Ann Onymous (not verified)

In reply to by Weed Addict (not verified)

To a rare few, marijuana may be addictive.... like candy bars can be to a fat person.  Some people are indeed addicted to sugar, but we don't put them in jail for using sugar.  For myself and dozens of friends and acquaintances that use or have used marijuana, NONE are addicted, so "Weed Addict" is indeed a rarity and may be suffering from an underlying aversion to sobriety-- that is, ANY mind-altering drug/plant/situation may be addictive to such an individual.  For such an individual, they should indeed stay away from marijuana, but to deny it to the overwhelming majority who find recreational and medical use, is absurd and unconscionable.

The REAL reasons that marijuana remains against the law is:

1. Pharmaceutical companies have difficulty competing against something that grows-- something that comes from a plant and does not require elaborate refinement.

2. Law enforcement ranks would likely go down, because a significant percentage of law enforcement staff is required for the absurd drug war.  So, why would a cop or DEA official endorse something that would result in their loss of a job?

3. The black market.  Legalization of marijuana would take $BILLIONS out of the hands of drug cartels-- they certainly do not want their source of income and wealth to disappear due to rational legislation.

4. Many religious people believe that things that feel good are "sins"-- sex, drugs, etc., so they are against it.

Mon, 07/11/2011 - 4:18pm Permalink
Arnold (not verified)

In reply to by Weed Addict (not verified)

The concept of addiction is conflated in our society. Current notions of what addiction is, are far too broad. If you think you are addicted to cannabis then so be it; get some help. However, just because someone really likes a substance or activity does not make them an addict, and the way that the DEA and the AMA defines addictions ultimately ends of labeling most cannabis consumers as addicts. Moreover, the definition of addiction even labels heavy internet users, video game players, and chocolate lovers as addicts. The definitions often includes words like, impairment, dependence, drug/activity seeking behavior, motivation, brain reward system, negative consequences, affects on interpersonal relationships. The problem is that talking about addiction as a medical or societal problem is that too many people bring in their own perspectives and values, which will ultimately skew the real issue. Some people smoke to get high and some people go running to get high - why do we value running over smoking? And yes, people who get up and run everyday for 5 miles do it to get high. No matter what anyone says, every person consumes something or performs some activity in order to alter their own brain chemistry in some way to acquire a "good feeling" of some kind. So when is someone an addict? A good place to start are the people who identify as addicts of something and want some help.

Tue, 07/12/2011 - 12:36am Permalink
Gabriel Reed (not verified)

In reply to by Weed Addict (not verified)

addictive? no more addictive than sex. that's like saying everyone that smokes marijuana is a nymphomaniac...


sex is (mentally) addictive for SOME people...

Tue, 07/12/2011 - 11:55am Permalink
Carl Darby (not verified)

In reply to by Weed Addict (not verified)

Calling it addicitive seems a bit extreme. It really is more of the case of the old saying:

Weed will get you through times of no money better than money gets you through times with no weed.

Fri, 07/15/2011 - 12:26am Permalink
jch (not verified)

In reply to by Weed Addict (not verified)

Anyone can be PSYCHOLOGICALLY addicted to anything (green beans, rutabagas,artichoke hearts,etc.) It's the PHYSICAL addiction that is most harmful !!

Wed, 02/15/2012 - 6:08pm Permalink
kickback (not verified)

Yeah. How many times has the DEA busted that Marijuana farm in Mississippi for growing Medicinal Marijuana? The one on a college campus. The DEA giving corporations a license to sell THC extracts to big pharma for generic Marinol? Yeah. First it was Hearst , DuPont and Anslinger. Now it`s big pharma and law enforcement. Land of the free, home of the brave.

Tue, 07/12/2011 - 12:13am Permalink
joebanana (not verified)

The law states that making false statements in order to influence criminal behavior, is in itself criminal. The printing and distribution of deliberately false and misleading information using public funds is a federal offense. The deliberate mis-classification of a substance to induce harsher criminal penalties is beyond fraud. Willful ignorance used to promote unjust policies, and alter the legal procedures resulting in the denial of due process,  the right to a fair trial, and equal protection under the law, along with the right to pursue happiness as long as it causes no harm to others, is a criminal act.

Article 3 Section 3 of the US constitution states, that waging war on the states is treason. That makes the war on drugs a treasonous act. What would happen if the laws were faithfully executed according to the presidents job description, the one he took an oath to protect and defend? There is a rule for law making, in that a law cannot be interpreted more than one way, to do so, null and voids that law on the spot, making it unenforceable. Enforcing an unenforceable law is a crime. More so than possession of a flower.

Thu, 07/14/2011 - 2:13pm Permalink

It is a morally bankrupt position to forbid suffering patients to have access to the medical benefits of marijuana.  This is especially true when licensed physicians are recommending marijuana for these patients, and when this safe, effective and inexpensive therapeutic agent is readily available. 

The federal government’s position on medical marijuana—total denial that marijuana has any medical benefits—is an embarrassment to science, to countless health care professionals and to patients nationwide.  But worst of all, the federal government has blocked the path of inquiry into the benefits of medical marijuana.  They refuse to allow large scale clinical testing.  They have systematically and consistently prevented the kind of studies that would lead to FDA approval, and then they—and their apologists--complain that the FDA has not approved it.  But science cannot be suppressed indefinitely. 

There is an entirely new scientific field emerging with the recent discovery of the Endocannabinoid System. This system details the cannabinoid receptors that exist in every organ of the human body, and explains why marijuana is effective for such a wide range of diseases, symptoms and conditions.

Thu, 07/14/2011 - 3:32pm Permalink
Raymond A. Weekley (not verified)

All plants were created by God and all have a purpose. When Man abuses them or abuses their components, the crime is in the abuse (gluttony), be it sugar, chocolate, caffeine, heroin, cocaine, penicillin, etc. Am I wrong about this? Assuming you agree with this precept, consider this- while history shows us that a proportion of human beings will die by choosing to over indulge in a particular substance, it seems obvious to me that no law will prevent them from exerting a God-given right, (free will). Most believe they won't get caught , while others don't give a damn, and as long as their actions do not infringe on anyone else's rights. In which case they should be held responsible and accountable for any harm caused by their impaired state in the same manner our courts deal with alcohol related  crimes. We don't arrest people when they leave a bar just because they've been drinking, right? And to speak about the vast number of lives ruined by drugs is to deny the fact that there always was and always will be a percentage of idiots that die from stupid decisions. Drug laws guarantee an individual will suffer because of incarceration, fines, forfeiture of voting rights, the right to own a handgun for self-defense, gainful employment, the list goes on and on. Now consider the black-market, created   as a result of our laws, not only a lure for the weak and lazy, but quite likely the only viable option for those whose reputations have been ruined by criminal records unable to find productive work in an economy that is sliding into oblivion everyday. Free or inexpensive drugs would drastically reduce crimes like robbery. The need for violence to obtain a "fix" certainly diminish. I'm not so naive as to not realize that thousands or perhaps many more people might die from legalizing drugs, but consider this - do you want a loved one ,perhaps your Mother, your wife , your child, to be attacked, maybe murdered so that some junkie can afford the high cost of his dope? High cost because  (1) greed of the dealer and (2) criminal penalties justify the dealer's price. The bottom line here is that legalizing drugs the intelligent thing to do. I am in no way advocating drug abuse, and have purposely avoided making accusations concerning the ultimate purpose behind our government's policies in regards to the subject. Peace   ??   


Sat, 07/16/2011 - 6:54am Permalink
Daniel Huffman (not verified)

Those that are not pro for medical Herb have never(tried it)(needed it)(wanted it)..Know nothing about it.   Leaving them with no accountable knowledge of any kind to say.((ITS GOOD OR BAD OR OTHER WISE)).

Sat, 07/16/2011 - 11:34am Permalink
cynthia stebbins (not verified)

Who will be at fault when the day comes that the dea admits the fact that the medical benefits of marijuana are endless and someone whos loved one dies because of the DEAs refusal to reschedule medical marijuana so that people with health problems have that option with no worrys that if they chose to see what benefits marijuana may have to make the life they lead comfortable or even cured.What idiots can let alcohol addiction run rampid, but make it illegal to smoke or use pot because you might get addicted? Get real we the people are not idiots. Just imagine how many more people would vote for you for being smarter than the last guy.
Sun, 07/17/2011 - 12:33pm Permalink
joshb (not verified)

yeah, that's why almost 20 states have legalized medical marijuana, because it has no medical use. DEA go away!!!

Sun, 07/17/2011 - 5:35pm Permalink
cdmagda (not verified)

You must ask yourself, why, after all these f#%king years, and so much evidence to the contrary, do (they) deny legal access? It's not for money, everyone will be growing it along with the tomatoes in the back yard. Sure, big tobacco and the pharmaceuticals will be busy making money, I won't buy it, most others who have a choice won't either. I would say, like many know themselves, that marijuana prohibition was, and is, the extension of Jim Crow legislation "under the hood", so to speak. In addition, it also has to do with the state of mind one has under the influence of weed, a state where one sees our world in a light that is contrary to the projected and protected world view they would have you perceive (believe). This, I think, is the major factor for the prohibition. They can't have everyone running around enlightened, and able to see through their crap world view. They would rather you believe the Judean- Christian, war and conquest storyline, and not ask questions.  

Tue, 12/11/2012 - 11:17am Permalink

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