Activists Decry Marijuana Rescheduling Catch-22
January 21, 2013
David Downs, San Francisco Chronicle
A US Appeals Court ended an attempt to re-schedule marijuana today, citing the lack of human studies on the drug.
But here’s the catch: the U.S. generally doesn’t permit human trials of cannabis.
Talk about a Catch-22.
The ruling from the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit published today is a defeat for the country’s leading medical marijuana advocacy organization, Americans for Safe Access, and their efforts to force the Drug Enforcement Administration to re-schedule the drug.
Eighteen states and Washington D.C. have legalized pot for medical uses, with many more promising to come online. A number of medical associations have found medical uses for the plant, and found that it is less dangerous and addictive than legal intoxicants alcohol or tobacco. Yet the federal government classifies pot as a schedule 1 narcotic with no medical use and a high potential for abuse.
In 2002, the Coalition to Reschedule Cannabis petitioned the DEA to reschedule pot to Schedule III, IV, or V. After dithering for nine years, the DEA denied the petition in 2011 , finding that “[t]here is no currently accepted medical use for marijuana in the United States,” and that “[t]he limited existing clinical evidence is not adequate to warrant rescheduling of marijuana under the CSA.”
In 2012, the Coalition and ASA petitioned for a review of the DEA’s decision, claiming that “[n]umerous peer-reviewed scientific studies demonstrate that marijuana is effective in treating various medical conditions, but the DEA simply ignores them to conclude that marijuana should remain in Schedule I.”
The Court of Appeals disagreed with ASA publicly today, finding in a 2-1 verdict “that substantial evidence supports [the DEA's] determination that such studies do not exist”.
No marijuana study has gotten past Phase I of the FDA’s three-phased drug study process, the DEA notes.
Activists say that’s because human trials must include government-grown weed, which is explicitly withheld from researchers studying the medical benefits of pot. And the activists are right.
According to the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, in their 2012 book Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know, “Thus while virtually any adolescent has easy access to black-market pot, it’s largely unavailable to research scientists. The rule is specific to marijuana: scientists studying heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, or LSD don’t have to jump through this particular hoop.”
“These policies hurt people,” said Clint Werner, author/researcher of 2012 reference book Marijuana, Gateway to Health, in a Sept. 2012 interview. “This is evil. … It’s a moral evil to keep people from having these remedies.”
“How many people had AIDS, have had cancer? And the brainwashing they’ve done to alienate people, to make them fearful of using this remedy that is far less harmful with far less side effects than the remedies they offer – it’s criminal. That’s where the criminality lies,” Werner said.
ASA added that enough studies do exist, despite the blockade.
“To deny that sufficient evidence is lacking on the medical efficacy of marijuana is to ignore a mountain of well-documented studies that conclude otherwise,” said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access (ASA). “The Court has unfortunately agreed with the Obama Administration’s unreasonably raised bar on what qualifies as an ‘adequate and well-controlled’ study, thereby continuing their game of ‘Gotcha.’”
Elford said they’ll appeal to the full D.C. Circuit, and, if necessary, the US Supreme Court.