DEA Denies Marijuana Rescheduling Petition
July 8th, 2011
The DEA 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.
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
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
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
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
"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."