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Marijuana Considered for Removal from Schedule I Status in Federal Court Case
|Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 | ProCon.org | MORE HEADLINES|
The United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit heard oral arguments on Oct. 16, 2012 in a lawsuit challenging the federal government's classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug. Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical marijuana advocacy organization, sued the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on July 8, 2011 after it denied an Oct. 9, 2002 petition by the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) to reschedule marijuana.
"The lack of access to marijuana for medical research is a consequence of the scheduling, yet the lack of suitable research is cited by the DEA as a reason for maintaining the schedule," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford during oral arguments. "The DEA erred by determining that cannabis has a high potential for abuse when its findings determine its abuse and harm potential is less than other substances in less-controlled schedules, such as cocaine."
Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, the United States federal government has the authority to regulate the manufacture, importation, possession, use, and distribution of drugs through a scheduling, or classification system. Marijuana (along with LSD, heroin, and other substances) is listed under the most restrictive Schedule I, which 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."
Cocaine and opium are listed in Schedule II, and Marinol (a synthetic form of the active ingredient THC in marijuana) has been classified in Schedule III.
According to testimony from DEA attorney Lena Watkins, 15 studies pertaining to the medicinal value of marijuana which adhere to "specific federal quality" standards have been conducted, but "we don't have the final results yet." Watkins further stated that "state legislatures or popular votes do not determine accepted medical use... research is inadequate and has not progressed... the government does provide access for research, and... marijuana is the most widely abused drug in America."
Several hours after the court heard oral arguments, the court ordered the ASA to provide "supplemental briefings" by Monday, Oct. 22 about how plaintiff Michael Krawitz, a US Air Force veteran, sustained harm as a result of the federal government’s refusal to reschedule marijuana. During the oral arguments, Elford argued that Krawitz had been denied medical services and treatment from Veterans Administration physicians because of his status as a medical marijuana patient. Krawitz was one of six plaintiffs who testified at the hearing.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to legalize medical marijuana, and six states have pending legislation. The possession and sale of marijuana remain illegal under federal law.
Joe Elford, "DC Circuit Orders Supplemental Briefing in Landmark Federal Medical Marijuana Case," safeaccessnow.org, Oct. 17, 2012
Chris Roberts, "Feds Play Circular Game of 'Gotcha' with Marijuana Prohibition," blogs.sfweekly.com, Oct. 17, 2012
Phillip Smith, "Marijuana Scheduling Case Heard by DC Appeals Court," stopthedrugwar.org, Oct. 17, 2012
Jacob Sullum, "Federal Appeals Court Hears Challenge to Marijuana's Legal Status," reason.com, Oct. 16, 2012