The country's leading medical marijuana advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), with the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC), on July 21 appealed a recent decision by the federal government to keep marijuana classified as a dangerous drug with no medical value. The appeal to the DC Circuit comes just two weeks after the DEA denied a 2002 petition to reschedule marijuana filed by a coalition of patients and advocacy groups. ASA will argue in a forthcoming appeal brief that the federal government erred by keeping cannabis out of reach for millions of patients throughout the US.
"By ignoring the wealth of scientific evidence that clearly shows the therapeutic value of marijuana, the Obama administration is playing politics at the expense of sick and dying Americans," said ASA chief counsel Joe Elford, who filed the notice of appeal. "For the first time in more than 15 years we will be able to present evidence in court to challenge the government's flawed position on medical marijuana." Although two other rescheduling petitions have been filed since the establishment of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, the merits of medical efficacy was reviewed only once by the courts, in 1994.
Patient advocates argue that by failing to reclassify cannabis, the federal government has stifled meaningful research into a wide array of therapeutic uses, such as pain relief, appetite stimulation, nausea suppression, and spasticity control, among many other benefits. In 1988, the government ignored the ruling of its own Administrative Law Judge Francis Young, who said that, "Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man."
Since the CRC petition was filed, even more studies have been published that show the medical benefits of cannabis for ailments such as neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer's. Recent studies even show that cannabis may inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Earlier this year, the National Cancer Institute, a division of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, added cannabis to its list of Complementary Alternative Medicines, pointing out that it's been therapeutically used for millennia.
Ironically, in December of 2010 the Obama administration issued a memorandum on "the preservation and promotion of scientific integrity" of the executive branch (PDF, Dec. 17, 2010). Yet, the application of such integrity appears to be applied selectively—and not with regard to medical cannabis. "With science on our side, we will put an end to the government's political posturing," said Elford, "and force the Obama administration to adhere to its own stated policy of emphasizing science over politics."
When the latest petition was filed by the CRC in 2002, eight states had adopted laws recognizing and decriminalizing the medical use of cannabis. Today, sixteen states and the nation's capitol have passed medical marijuana laws, with many more states currently considering proposals to implement similar laws. (ASA, July 21)
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