Federal Court of Appeals Denies Petition to Reschedule Marijuana

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director January 22, 2013

    In a 28-page decision, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has denied petitioners request to overturn the July 2011 denial by the Drug Enforcement Administration to initiate proceedings to reschedule marijuana under federal law.

    In October 2002, the Coalition to Reschedule Cannabis, a coalition of reform organizations including NORML, ASA, Patients Out of Time and High Times, among others, petitioned the DEA to reschedule marijuana as a Schedule III, IV, or V drug. Following years of administrative delay, on July 8, 2011, the DEA denied the petition, finding that “[t]here is no currently accepted medical use for marijuana in the United States,” and that “[t]he limited existing clinical evidence is not adequate to warrant rescheduling of marijuana under the CSA.”

    Petitioners then sought review in the federal Court of Appeals, alleging the decision by the DEA was arbitrary and capricious when it concluded that marijuana lacks a “currently accepted medical use” and has a “high potential for abuse.” They ask this court to remand the case to the DEA for reconsideration of its decision.

    Written by Senior Circuit Judge Edwards, the decision ruled “On the record before us, we hold that the DEA’s denial of the rescheduling petition survives review under the deferential arbitrary and capricious standard. The petition asks the DEA to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III, IV, or V drug, which, under the terms of the CSA, requires a ‘currently accepted medical use.’ The DEA’s regulations, which we approved in Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics v. DEA, 15 F.3d 1131 (D.C. Cir. 1994), define ‘currently accepted medical use’ to require, inter alia, ‘adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy.’ Id. at1135. We defer to the agency’s interpretation of these regulations and find that substantial evidence supports its determination that such studies do not exist.

    “In its scientific and medical evaluation,” the court held, “DHHS concluded that marijuana lacks a currently accepted medical use in the United States. In reaching this conclusion, DHHS applied the DEA’s established five-prong test, which requires 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.”

    “We will not disturb the decision of an agency that has ‘examine[d] the relevant data and articulate[d] a satisfactory explanation for its action including a rational connection between the facts found and the choice made.’”

    In this case, we need only look at one factor, the existence of “adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy,” to resolve Petitioners’ claim.

    At bottom, the parties’ dispute in this case turns on the agency’s interpretation of its own regulations. Petitioners construe “adequate and well-controlled studies” to mean peer-reviewed, published studies suggesting marijuana’s medical efficacy. The DEA, in contrast, interprets that factor to require something more scientifically rigorous.

    In making this assessment, we must “remind ourselves that our role in the Congressional scheme is not to give an independent judgment of our own, but rather to determine whether the expert agency entrusted with regulatory responsibility has taken an irrational or arbitrary view of the evidence assembled before it.

    The DEA’s construction of its regulation is eminently reasonable. Therefore, we are obliged to defer to the agency’s interpretation of “adequate and well-controlled studies.” Judged against the DEA’s standard, we find nothing in the record that could move us to conclude that the agency failed to prove by substantial evidence that such studies confirming marijuana’s medical efficacy do not exist.”

    Petitioners are considering their legal options at this time.

    166 responses to “Federal Court of Appeals Denies Petition to Reschedule Marijuana”

    1. Walt. C. says:

      This patent the US Government owns on Marijuana
      Look it up!

    2. JP says:

      Are you kidding me?

      Does the DEA publicly provide their requirements for a study to be considered “adequate and well-controlled”?

    3. John McClane says:

      Yep still the same old circle of propaganda… Make a plant illegal, and then because the subtle genetic differences and environmental differences in each grow produce a different cannabinoid profile, its too risky to use. How about drugs like antidepressants? Here is a wikipedia explanation of how some work:
      Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
      Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs are thought to prevent the reuptake of serotonin (also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine, or 5-HT) by the presynaptic neuron, thus initially maintaining higher levels of 5-HT in the synapse. Like all anti-depressants their mechanism of action remains unknown. SSRIs inhibit serotonin-mediated platelet activation. This leads to increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding; at times as high as 57% increase in risk. This is especially important in the elderly, those with a history of peptic ulcer disease or previous gastrointestinal bleeding, and those on blood thinners, such as aspirin and clopidogrel. Moreover, SSRIs inhibit nitric oxide synthesis, which leads to vasoconstriction. This is significant in pregnancy as SSRIs have been associated with the development of hypertension and pre eclampsia of pregnancy. This in turn can lead to fetal prematurity.[25]
      SSRI antidepressants includes:
      Citalopram (Celexa)
      Escitalopram (Lexapro, Cipralex)
      Paroxetine (Paxil, Seroxat)
      Fluoxetine (Prozac)
      Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
      Sertraline (Zoloft, Lustral)


    4. Chuck S. says:

      This does not come as any surprise. We need to keep pushing MMJ and legalization at a state level.

    5. Dave says:

      somewhere online there is really cool info on how more quantum styles of language and correct knowledge of world law culture may be the best way to proceed in matters of cultural policy reform, such as with food and drug policy. corporate world law culture is a mighty beast, so, making world civilization saner and freer is definitely a formidable task of great work.

    6. the stupid thing is that they don’t allow any scientific research because it is a Schedule I drug. so how do they say that there are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving (marijuana’s) efficacy; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts?? it’s a circle…just keep going in circles. since it is Schedule I drug they don’t allow any studies and they cannot reschedule because there no adequate studies….hint, there are 18 states that have passed medical marijuana laws and 2 states legalized it for recreational use…hint #2 the federal government has a patent on medical use of cannabis. this is retarded.

    7. John says:

      It has no medical use, yet big pharma will patent it and put it in pill form.

    8. ed says:

      How about the testimony of millions of sick people whose suffering has been eased by marijuana, rather than using pharmacueticals with their horrible side effects.

    9. States rights says:

      I guess the boneheads in the court agree with the circular logic the Feds have set up. If we don’t allow you to study weed according to our standards because we have weed as illegal then you have basis for proving it.

      This is an i win, you lose bet that only lawyers could have put in place. If Obama wasn’t such a vag, he would stop this crap. However, this is how he likes to work. He hides behind his bureaucracy for political expediency.

      Work to get every state to legalize weed. Washington only understands pressure from the people

    10. One branch of government covering the ass of another branch. Gee, that could never happen huh?

      Jurors need to nullify bad laws. Learn all you can about jury nullification.

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