Medical Marijuana Lawsuit Headed to Federal Court to Challenge Schedule I Status

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=”http:>The United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit has agreed to hear oral arguments on Oct. 16, 2012 in a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on July 8, 2011 denied an Oct. 9, 2002 petition by the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) to reschedule marijuana, prompting a lawsuit by Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical marijuana advocacy organization.

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.”

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 is listed in Schedule II, and Marinol (a synthetic form of the active ingredient THC in marijuana) has been classified in Schedule III. 

The ASA appeal brief states that the federal government “has acted arbitrarily and capriciously in its efforts to deny marijuana to millions of patients throughout the United States.” The brief further asserts that the DEA has “no license to apply different criteria to marijuana than to other drugs, ignore critical scientific data, misrepresent social science research, or rely upon unsubstantiated assumptions, as the DEA has done in this case.”

=”http:>The DEA, in its 2011 petition denial to reschedule marijuana, claims that “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…”

Oral arguments reviewing the scientific evidence regarding the therapeutic value of marijuana are scheduled to take place Tuesday, October 16, at the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse in downtown Washington, DC.
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 remains illegal under federal law.


Aleksandra Buha, “Marijuana,”, Aug. 3, 2011

Americans for Safe Access, “Medical Marijuana Patients Get Their Day in Federal Court with the Obama Administration,”, July 30, 2012 

Phillip Smith, “Medical Marijuana Rescheduling Lawsuit Moving,”, July 30, 2012

Jon Walker, “Medical Marijuana Rescheduling to Go Before DC Circuit Court of Appeals,”, July 30, 2012

Nick Wing, “Medical Marijuana Case on Therapeutic Value, Rescheduling to be Heard in Federal Court,”, Aug. 1, 2012