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Medical Marijuana Rescheduling Lawsuit Moving

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #745)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

A decade after the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) filed its petition seeking to have marijuana moved from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the federal courts will finally review the scientific evidence regarding the therapeutic efficacy of marijuana. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals announced late last week that it will hear oral arguments in October in a lawsuit filed by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) to force the government to act.

The lawsuit, Americans for Safe Access vs. DEA, was filed in January after the DEA denied the CRC's rescheduling petition the previous July. The DEA took nine years to decide to do nothing about rescheduling marijuana.

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

Patient advocates charge the DEA and other federal agencies have ignored an increasing mountain of evidence on marijuana's therapeutic efficacy and that marijuana is "currently accepted [for] medical use in treatment" in 17 states and the District of Columbia. They also charge that the rescheduling process for marijuana has been "encumbered by politics" and that federal agencies are throwing roadblocks in the way of scientific research on medical marijuana.

"Medical marijuana patients are finally getting their day in court," said ASA chief counsel Joe Elford. "This is a rare opportunity for patients to confront politically motivated decision-making with scientific evidence of marijuana's medical efficacy. What's at stake in this case is nothing less than our country's scientific integrity and the imminent needs of millions of patients."

Oral arguments will take place Tuesday, October 16, at 9:30am at the E. Barrett Prettyman US Courthouse in downtown Washington.

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.


Tony Aroma (not verified)

This has already been tried with no success.  A federal judge ruled on a petition to reschedule marijuana way back in 1988.  He said it should be rescheduled.  And it's still a Schedule 1 substance today.  So what makes anybody think the DEA will abide by a ruling this time when they've ignored the ruling of a federal judge before?  The DEA is not bound by the decisions of any judge.  The judicial branch has no way to enforce their decisions against the executive branch.  This is essentially a symbolic lawsuit that will at best result in a non-binding decision.

Mon, 07/30/2012 - 6:36pm Permalink
Les Stark (not verified)

In reply to by Tony Aroma (not verified)

It may have been tried before but that was 1988, this is 2012. The wall of prohibition can only take so much erosion before  it comes down. I see it heading to a climactic result soon, almost imminently. Change is coming. I can feel it.

Mon, 07/30/2012 - 10:48pm Permalink
Anonymous47 (not verified)

In reply to by Tony Aroma (not verified)

The past successes of the American political machine aside, Marijuana just doesn't fit the mold of a Schedule I drug. The problem here isn't that it can't be successful, but that in the past many decades there's been such an admittedly difficult-to-transcend political vendetta against the plant that it hasn't been possible for lawmakers to take any stance other than firm opposition. But public opinion is shifting, and that's exactly the catalyst that can, hopefully in the next couple years at the very least, make the difference necessary to reschedule marijuana to the factually appropriate governmental designation of controlled substances. Seriously, what marijuana opponents can be against switching to regulation and heavy taxing?

Tue, 07/31/2012 - 12:45am Permalink
Anonymous123 (not verified)

In reply to by Tony Aroma (not verified)

The internet has spread so much truth that marijuana prohibition cannot stand, as prohibition was all based upon a lie in the first place.  Marijuana prohibition is like watching your favorite football team in a blowout 45-7 at the start of the fourth quarter.  You know who's going to win - it's just a matter of time!

Tue, 07/31/2012 - 2:05am Permalink
Rick Steeb (not verified)

In reply to by Tony Aroma (not verified)

Francis L. Young was an administrative law judge.  On 16 October, our case will be heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.  With authority the "administrator" is not authorized to ignore.


It is time to get real, and slap the liars down, not predict failure.  OK?

Fri, 08/03/2012 - 11:49pm Permalink
Anonymous30039 (not verified)

But it can't hurt to try. :)

Mon, 07/30/2012 - 9:35pm Permalink
Johm P (not verified)

Wasn't the decision in 1988 by Francis Young, a DEA Administrative Law Judge?  His opinion has no authority in terms of policy change - perhaps a federal judge would have more power.  We shall see.

Mon, 07/30/2012 - 9:36pm Permalink
Tony Aroma (not verified)

In reply to by Johm P (not verified)

It went to the Administrative Law Judge, Francis Young, as the result of a decision in a federal court of appeals.  The exact same thing that will happen this time.  Here's the pertinent info from Judge Young's decision:

On September 1, 1972 the Director of BNDD announced his refusal to accept the petition for filing, stating that he was not authorized to institute proceedings for the action requested because of the provisions of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961. NORML appealed this action to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The court held that the Director had erred in rejecting the petition without "a reflective consideration and analysis," observing that the Director's refusal "was not the kind of agency action that promoted the kind of interchange and refinement of views that is the lifeblood of a sound administrative process." NORML v. Ingersoll, 162 U.S. App. D.C. 67, 497 F.2d 654, 659 (1974). The court remanded the matter in January 1974 for further proceedings not inconsistent with its opinion, "to be denominated a consideration on the merits." Id. A three-day hearing was held at DEA [footnote 2] by Administrative Law Judge Lewis Parker in January 1975. The judge found in NORML's favor on several issues but the Acting Administrator of DEA entered a final order denying NORML's petition "in all respects." NORML again petitioned the court for review.
Mon, 07/30/2012 - 11:00pm Permalink
Tony Aroma (not verified)

If they rely on a preponderance of evidence to support medical use, as has failed before, history will repeat itself. The challenge to the DEA's decision should instead be the egregious conflict of interest. Since the AG delegated the power over scheduling to the DEA, they both make and enforce the drug laws. The DEA's entire reason for being is the existence of Schedule 1 drugs. If the DEA could be removed from the decision-making process, science might have a chance.
Mon, 07/30/2012 - 11:50pm Permalink
Malc (not verified)


An appeal to all Prohibitionists:

Most of us know that individuals who use illegal drugs are going to get high—no matter what, so why do you not prefer they acquire them in stores that check IDs and pay taxes? Gifting the market in narcotics to ruthless criminals, foreign terrorists, and corrupt law enforcement officials is seriously compromising our future.  

Why do you wish to continue with a policy that has proven itself to be a poison in the veins of our once so "proud & free" nation? Even if you cannot bear the thought of people using drugs, there is absolutely nothing you, or any government, can do to stop them. We have spent 40 years and trillions of dollars on this dangerous farce; Prohibition will not suddenly and miraculously start showing different results. Do you actually believe you may personally have something to lose If we were to begin basing our drug policy on science & logic instead of ignorance, hate and lies?  

Maybe you're a police officer, a prison guard, or a local/national politician. Possibly you're scared of losing employment, overtime pay, the many kickbacks, and those regular fat bribes. But what good will any of that do you once our society has followed Mexico over the dystopian abyss of dismembered bodies, vats of acid, and marauding thugs carrying gold-plated AK-47s with leopard-skinned gunstocks

Kindly allow us to forgo the next level of your sycophantic prohibition-engendered mayhem. 

Prohibition prevents regulation: legalize, regulate, and tax!

Tue, 07/31/2012 - 12:59pm Permalink
Jack S. Herrer (not verified)

Just like beer, it will be legalized by some states and then a domino effect will take place. Look for CO and WA to legalize it this Nov; OR is a maybe. 

Tue, 07/31/2012 - 10:02pm Permalink
Mr. Anonymous (not verified)

The drug war that Nancy Reagan started years ago back in the 80s has failed.  People are still doing drugs. Our borders are no more safer now than they were while your hubby was president. It seems that the drugs keep infiltrating our country as we let new people in. Immigrants are part of the drug problem in this country.

Wed, 08/01/2012 - 1:19am Permalink
HomieHogleg (not verified)

In reply to by Mr. Anonymous (not verified)

Actually, you need to go a bit farther back.  The phrase "War on Drugs,"  Comes from the Nixon Years.

Thu, 08/02/2012 - 2:11pm Permalink
William Tucker (not verified)

In reply to by HomieHogleg (not verified)

Nixon when he found out his commision ruled that marijuana should be decriminalized, he disregarded the whole thing and said"We need to have an all our war on drugs" paraphrased.

Sat, 09/08/2012 - 2:54pm Permalink
Stefan (not verified)

In reply to by Mr. Anonymous (not verified)

Immigrants? You mean, US citizens? The US was founded by immigrants. And no, drugproblems are not caused by them anyway.

Tue, 09/04/2012 - 8:23am Permalink
Carl Olsen (not verified)

The last time the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled on a federal scheduling petition was 1994.  At that time, the court said it would not substitute its own opinion for that of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  DEA is bound by law by the recommendation of the DHHS unless there is some legal reason DEA cannot follow that recommendation.  DHHS recommended Schedule I in 2006 and that is what this current case is about.  The fundamental fact that has changed since 1994 is that marijuana now has accepted medical use in 17 states in the United States.  Considering the condition Congress set on the placement of marijuana in Schedule I ("no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States"), there is a legal argument in this case that did not exist in 1994.  DEA cannot accept the recommendation of DHHS if there is a valid legal reason which prevents it.  There is a valid legal reason that prevents DEA from keeping marijuana in Schedule I, regardless of what DHHS says about it.

Thu, 08/02/2012 - 11:12am Permalink

I was in Federal Prison with Brother Love and several of his followers from the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church in the 1980's. We had all been convicted of marijuana offenses...separate cases.

The head of Brother Love's defense team was former US Attorney General, Ramsey Clark. Their defense was based on religious freedom. 

While in prison together, I read hundreds of pages of the transcript from his trial. Many are available on the web today.

The panel of 'expert witnesses,' presented by his defense team, included the foremost authorities in medicine of that era. The overwhelming amount of evidence documenting the medicinal benefits of marijuana was staggering. 

And, that was in the early 1980's. Now, fully 30 years later, the same lame arguments are still being paraded.

Even following Judge Francis Young's decision in 1988, the DEA has continued its self-aggrandizing war on marijuana.

How pathetic.

With this case coming before the court in October, the court itself is on it a credible entity? Can it be trusted?

Marijuana: "just like lettuce and tomatoes."


Thu, 08/02/2012 - 11:38am Permalink


True tales of the 'marijuana culture.'

This review is taken from re:  Shoulda Robbed a Bank
"If David Sedaris had written 'Catcher in the Rye'..this would be it."
"I have never smoked pot in my life...nor do I ever care to.
I read about this book in numerous Huffington Post comments. Thought I would read it because I know nothing about marijuana or the people involved with it. I am ecstatic that I did. Funny, Funny, Funny!!!
The chapters are like short stories. Stories about unloading boats with helicopters, close encounters with law enforcement, traveling through the jungles of South America. The chapter about the author's first time smoking marijuana made me feel like I was with him...coughing.
All of the characters were just a group of loveable, nice guys and girls. Not what I had been raised to believe...hysterical maniacs high on pot bent on death and mayhem. They were nothing like that.
If you have ever read any of David Sedaris' books, and like will love Shoulda Robbed a Bank.
And the crazy things happening reminded me of Holden Caufield in 'Catcher in the Rye' and the way he staggered through life.
The way the words are put together are like nothing I have ever heard. I am sure I will use many of the sayings found in this book just to dazzle my friends. A terrific read. I love this book."


Thu, 08/02/2012 - 11:41am Permalink
Jeff Brown (not verified)

When the majority of the people support change i.e. the medical marijuana laws it is up to the government officials to follow. Polls come in at around 70 percent in favor of allowing medical marijuana. How much longer can the small minority continue to fight this change?

Thu, 08/02/2012 - 8:11pm Permalink
Joe Friendly (not verified)

There has been mention among the comments on other articles here of US Patent 6,630,507 held by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, filed in 2001, based on research funded by NIHthat claims a wide range of medical benefits from cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants.

In the introductory abstract of the patent is the language, "useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and HIV dementia." 

I trust this is included in the recent challenge of scheduling to be heard October 16.

Thu, 08/02/2012 - 10:44pm Permalink

I just have to say, whether it's for cannabis or gadgets, the USPTO has no business issuing patents to the US gov't.  It serves no purpose related to encouragement of invention.  If anything, it discourages it.  However, it not being illegal -- probably because noboddy foresaw gov't itself would apply for patents, so the statutes don't outlaw it -- there it is.  So for a period of time, the US gov't can prevent anyone from using this technology, or they can license it to whomever they want.  Whoopee.

Thu, 08/02/2012 - 11:59pm Permalink
William Tucker (not verified)

 farmers could increase their income by 20%, and by reading Jack Herer's book

'The Emperor wears no clothes"

Everyone will see how we can easily create 10 million jobs easlly in privatesector manufacturing

Sat, 09/08/2012 - 2:48pm Permalink
KJ (not verified)

Only candidate will make this happen Gary Johnson.  Vote this year and see the greatness begin.

Sat, 09/15/2012 - 4:48pm Permalink

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