Marijuana Schedule I Status Challenged by Request to Supreme Court

In an effort to have marijuana reclassified from its current status as a Schedule I narcotic, Americans for Safe Access has formally asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review an earlier ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C., which sided with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
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You may recall in the previous case, Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration, decided back in January, the appellate court backed the DEA’s current, strict classification of the drug. As a Schedule I narcotic, marijuana is considered:

  • To have a high potential for abuse;
  • To have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S.;
  • To have a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.

For very obvious reasons, our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers recognize the classification as flawed. Not the least of those reasons is the fact that 18 states and the District of Columbia have approved it for medicinal use. So there are, in fact, accepted medical uses for the drug in the U.S. Two states have even approved it for recreational use.

Yet it remains illegal under federal law, which allows federal prosecutors to clamp down hard on dispensaries and patients. The current schedule is exceedingly antiquated, not to mention dangerous in terms of how it ultimately affects the lives of those who seek to grow, distribute, possess and use it.

The appeal to the Supreme Court was expected. The ASA had announced it had planned to do so after the previous ruling was issued. The petition doesn’t mean the case is going to be heard. The court receives thousands of such petitions every session. Only a tiny percentage of those are actually heard.

However, this case may have a better chance than most of getting the court’s attention. For one ting, it is on the paid certiorari docket. Most cases aren’t. And secondly, the plaintiff argues that the court’s intervention is necessary to resolve a critical conflict between the federal and appellate courts.

While the D.C. Circuit court had granted the plaintiff standing – the first time that had been done in almost two decades – it denied the appeal in a 2-1 ruling that set an extremely high standard for assessing medical efficacy of a drug.

The ASA took great pains to cite some 200 peer-reviewed studies in its appeal. However, the appellate court held that plaintiffs had to produce evidence of Phase II and Phase III clinical trials. These are the kinds of trials that are usually conducted when pharmaceutical companies are trying to bring a new drug to the market. But here’s the catch: Many of those studies couldn’t advance to the Phase II or Phase III platform because doing so would have meant gaining permission from the DEA to use the drug for research purpose. The DEA tends to deny all but a very small portion of marijuana research requests.

In its 161-page petition, the ASA writes that the appellate court’s denial that ample evidence exists to prove marijuana’s medicinal value is to simply ignore extensive, well-documented studies. The organization further argued that the court “unreasonable raised the bar” for what should be considered an adequate and well-controlled study.

In addition to continued studies on the drug, all of which overwhelmingly point to the drug’s medical benefits, national polls show that public approval of marijuana for medicinal purposes has consistently risen since 2002, and now hovers around 80 percent.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration, Petition for Writ of Certiorari, July 15, 2013, U.S. Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
Marijuana Banking a Tough Sell, But Lawmakers Seek Change, July 14, 2013, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog