Advocates file brief with DC Circuit: fed policy harmful to patients

Posted on October 23rd, 2012 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , .

medical marijuanaLess than a week after oral arguments in the landmark federal case to reclassify cannabis for medical use, the plaintiffs filed an additional brief Oct. 22 at the request of the court. In the case Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order last week seeking details on the harm sustained by plaintiff and disabled US Air Force veteran Michael Krawitz as a result of the federal government's policy on medical marijuana.

The federal appeals court will use the brief to decide whether the plaintiffs have legal "standing" to bring suit against the government. The suit argues that the government has acted arbitrarily and capriciously by keeping cannabis classified as a Schedule I substance, a dangerous drug with no medical value. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) argues that by ignoring the overwhelming scientific evidence, the federal government has kept cannabis out of reach for millions of Americans who would otherwise benefit from its therapeutic value.

"The court's request for clarification is a sign that this case is being taken very seriously," said Joe Elford, ASA chief counsel and the attorney who is arguing before the DC Circuit. "The experience of plaintiff Michael Krawitz being denied treatment by the Department of Veterans Affairs is real and emblematic of many other patients caught up in the federal government's harmful policy on medical marijuana."

According to Krawitz, his denial of Veterans Affairs treatment has forced him to "expend significant economic and other resources to be treated by an Oregon physician outside the VA system, which I pay for on my own."

The brief filed by ASA argues, "The injuries suffered by Krawitz are caused by marijuana's placement in Schedule I and would be redressed by a favorable decision in this case." Specifically, the brief states that Krawitz was "denied prescription pain medication for a time and compelled to this day to seek pain treatment outside the VA system because he refused to sign a VA pain contract that would require him to abstain from the use of medical marijuana."

Legal "standing" is the determination of harm endured by the plaintiffs. If standing is satisfied, the court can then rule on the merits of a case. The previous legal challenge to the classification of cannabis was rejected by the DC Circuit in 2002 because of inadequate standing; however no actual medical marijuana patients were part of that case. Not only are there several patient plaintiffs in the current legal challenge, but ASA is also alleging harm by having to counter political rhetoric with scientific information.

The case Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration is the result of a petition to reclassify marijuana that was filed in 2002 by the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis, but denied last year by the federal government. In January, ASA appealed the denial of the petition. This is the first time in nearly 20 years that the DC Circuit is hearing arguments on the scientific evidence of medical marijuana.

"What's at stake in this case is nothing less than our country's scientific integrity and the imminent needs of millions of patients," said Elford. Nevertheless, it could take weeks or even months before the court renders a decision in the case. (ASA, Oct. 23)

Graphic: Herbal Remedies


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