A Loss for Legalization
On Tuesday, January 22, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 against removing marijuana from Schedule I, currently classifying cannabis as a dangerous drug with no valid medical use.
The court rejected the proposal brought by medical marijuana advocates called Americans for Safe Access, a California-based patient advocacy group, as well as the Coalition to Reschedule Cannabis, Patients Out of Time, and four individual medicinal marijuana users, saying they had failed to prove that the DEA’s classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug was “arbitrary and capricious,” the San Diego Free Press reports.
The court ruled that marijuana fails to meet the five standards the DEA sets for drugs to qualify as having valid medical use.
The medical marijuana advocates will appeal the case to the full 13 judge court of the D.C. Circuit, and, failing that, will appeal to the Supreme Court. The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Joe Elford, says the court did not make it impossible for future studies to show cannabis’s medical efficacy in the future.
The court deferred to the past rulings of the DEA, which currently holds the power to place and remove drugs in the various schedules. In order to be considered viable for medical use, a drug must pass a five-part test, proving it has a “known and reproducible drug chemistry, adequate safety studies, adequate and well-controlled studies demonstrating efficacy, acceptance of the drug by qualified experts, and widely available scientific evidence.”
Marijuana very notably lacks adequate and well-controlled studies, largely due to the DEA’s super tight restrictions in the first place. Cannabis also has over 480 known compounds, including 66 cannabinoids, which have never been seen in other plants and have yet to be studied in a large scale and thorough manner, according to the court.
However, Americans for Safe Access have one particularly persuasive point in their argument: “The federal government has sought and obtained a patent for the medical use of cannabinoids; yet, it claims in these proceedings that marijuana has no medical use,” ASA’s appeal brief says. “There are numerous peer-reviewed studies establishing that marijuana is effective in treating AIDS wasting syndrome, muscle spasticity, emesis, appetite loss, negative side effects of chemotherapy, and chronic pain, as several of the government’s own commissions and administrative law judges have recognized. The government, however, simply ignores these well-controlled studies, and instead, demands proof of medical efficacy for marijuana far beyond that which it requires for other scheduled substances — proof that is not required by the federal Controlled Substances Act or the federal agencies’ own regulations.”