WASHINGTON, DC — A United States Federal Appeals Court has rejected an attempt by Americans for Safe Access to reclassify marijuana to from its current status as a dangerous drug with no accepted medical use.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington today upheld the Drug Enforcement Administration’s decision to maintain marijuana as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning the DEA can keep marijuana on its list of the most dangerous, tightly controlled drugs, alongside heroin.
The appeals court panel announced their decision Tuesday in the case Americans For Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration. Oral arguments for the case were heard in October.
The case stemmed from a 2011 decision by the DEA to deny a 2002 petition by marijuana activists to reclassify marijuana from its status as a Schedule I “dangerous” drug.
Under federal law, schedule I substances must possess three specific criteria: “a high potential for abuse;” “no currently accepted medical use in treatment;” and “a lack of accepted safety for the use of the drug … under medical supervision.”
In its 2011 denial of petitioners’ rescheduling request, DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart alleged that cannabis possesses all three criteria, claiming: “[T]here are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving (marijuana’s) efficacy; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts. … At this time, 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.”
In Tuesday’s decision, the court said that the question wasn’t whether marijuana could have some medical benefits, but rather whether the DEA’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious.”
The court concluded that the DEA action survives review under that standard.
Without further scientific evidence, the court must defer to the DEA, wrote Judge Harry Edwards for a 2-1 majority.
“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), which appealed the denial of the rescheduling petition in January of last year. “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.’”
ASA intends to appeal the decision by seeking a review by the full D.C. Circuit and, if necessary, the organization will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.