Advocates sue over delayed marijuana reclassification petition
May 22, 2011
Bryce Crawford, Colorado Springs Independent
Today, the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis — made up of Americans for Safe Access, Patients Out of Time, and individual medical marijuana patients — filed suit in Washington, D.C. District Court in an attempt to compel the Obama administration to address a nine-year-old petition to reclassify medical marijuana from a Schedule I substance.
A news release says that despite a 2006 formal recommendation for the action from the Department of Health and Human Services, no response was received from the Drug Enforcement Administration, which has the final say on the rescheduling process.
"The federal government's strategy has been delay, delay, delay," says Joe Elford, chief counsel of ASA and lead counsel on the writ, in the release. "It is far past time for the government to answer our rescheduling petition, but unfortunately we've been forced to go to court in order to get resolution."
Cannabis has made several inroads towards reclassification. Both the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians have informally asked the federal government to consider a new Schedule-status; also, the National Cancer Institute recognized cannabis' medicinal benefits earlier in the year when it added the plant to its online database of Complementary Alternative Medicine.
The release says that an answer to the petition is key to any future legal action, as a formal rejection would allow the advocates to challenge in court the government's assertion that marijuana has no medicinal value. (For comparison on the potential timetable, a reclassification petition filed in 1972 was unanswered for 22 years before being formally denied.)
"The Obama administration's refusal to act on this petition is an irresponsible stalling tactic," says Jon Gettman, who filed the rescheduling petition on behalf of the CRC.