Strike Three for Rescheduling Marijuana
July 09, 2011
Jacob Sullum, Reason Magazine
On Friday the Drug Enforcement Administration officially rejected a nine-year-old petition asking it to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the law's most restrictive category. Schedule I is supposedly reserved for drugs that have "a high potential for abuse," "no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States," and no "accepted safety for use under medical supervision." The Los Angeles Times notes that "marijuana has been approved by California, many other states and the nation's capital to treat a range of illnesses"; that "the DEA's decision comes as researchers continue to identify beneficial effects"; that "Americans overwhelmingly support [medical marijuana] in national polls"; and that the National Cancer Institute "notes that marijuana may help with nausea, loss of appetite, pain and insomnia."
This is the third time the DEA has denied a marijuana rescheduling petition: The first petition, filed in 1972, was rejected 17 years later in a decision that overrode the recommendation of the DEA's own administrative law judge; the second, filed in 1995, was rejected six years later. Last week's rejection came two months after Americans for Safe Access asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to compel the DEA to respond. Now ASA can go back to the D.C. Circuit and challenge the rationale for the DEA's decision. "We have foiled the government's strategy of delay," says ASA attorney Joe Elford, "and we can now go head to head on the merits, that marijuana really does have therapeutic value."
DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart claims "the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy." Yes, that is the same Michele Leonhart who has obstructed marijuana research by refusing to allow competition with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the only legal source of cannabis. That decision also rejected the recommendation of a DEA administrative law judge.