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LITIGATION

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 10, 2012

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear opening arguments next week in a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s refusal to consider reclassifying cannabis as a schedule I prohibited substance under federal law.

    At issue in the case is whether the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) acted appropriately when the agency last year denied an administrative petition – initially filed by a coalition of public interest organizations, including NORML, in 2002 – that called on the agency to initiate hearings to reassess the present classification of cannabis.

    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.”

    By contrast, a recent scientific review of clinical trials evaluating the safety and efficacy of cannabis concluded, “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.”

    Commenting on the upcoming hearing in a press release, Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access (ASA) said: “Medical marijuana patients are finally getting their day in court. What’s at stake in this case is nothing less than our country’s scientific integrity and the imminent needs of millions of patients.” Elford will be arguing the case before the D.C. Circuit. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for Tuesday, October 16th.

    NORML previously filed a similar rescheduling petition with the DEA in 1972, but was not granted a federal hearing on the issue until 1986. In 1988, DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young ruled that marijuana did not meet the legal criteria of a Schedule I prohibited drug and should be reclassified. Then-DEA Administrator John Lawn rejected Young’s determination, a decision the D.C. Court of Appeals eventually affirmed in 1994.

    A subsequent petition was filed by former NORML Director Jon Gettman in 1995, but was rejected by the DEA in 2001.

    Further information on the lawsuit is available at: http://safeaccessnow.org. Additional information on the 2002 petition to reschedule cannabis is available at: http://www.drugscience.org/.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 12, 2012

    Members of the Montana Supreme Court ruled 6 to 1 on Tuesday that patients do not possess a fundamental right to access and consume cannabis for therapeutic purposes. The decision reverses a District Court ruling enjoining the state from enforcing various provisions of a 2011 state law that limits the public’s access to medical marijuana.

    “In pursuing one’s health, an individual has a fundamental right to obtain and reject medical treatment,” Justice Michael Wheat opined for the majority. “But, this right does not extend to give a patient a fundamental right to use any drug, regardless of its legality.”

    He added, “A patient’s ‘selection of a particular treatment, or at least a medication, is within the area of government interest in protecting public health,’ and regulation of that medication does not implicate a fundamental constitutional right.”

    The Court further opined that a patient’s “right to privacy does not encompass the affirmative right of access to medical marijuana.”

    The majority concluded, “[T]he plaintiffs cannot seriously contend that they have a fundamental right to medical marijuana when it is still unequivocally illegal under the (federal) Controlled Substances Act.”

    The Court’s decision allows for the state to fully implement Senate Bill 423, a 2011 law that sought to significantly limit the use, production, and distribution of cannabis among patients who possess a physician’s authorization to consume it.

    Montana voters will decide in November on Initiative Referendum 124, which seeks to repeal SB 423. Montana voters in 2004 approved patients’ use of medical cannabis for qualified illnesses by a vote of 62 percent.

    Full text of the decision, Montana Cannabis Industry Association et al. v State is available online here.

    NORML has additional details about this November’s statewide and municipal ballot initiative at our Smoke the Vote page here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director August 27, 2012

    This Week in Weed

    Click here to subscribe to NORMLtv and receive alerts whenever new content is added.

    The latest installment of “This Week in Weed” is now streaming on NORMLtv.

    This week: Colorado’s Amendment 64 would bring in big revenue for the state, Grand Rapids will be voting on marijuana decriminalization, and Arkansas’ medical marijuana initiative qualifies for the ballot.

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    Be sure to tune in to NORMLtv every week to catch up on the latest marijuana news. Subscribe to NORMLtv or follow us on Twitter to be notified as soon as new content is added.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director August 1, 2012

    Here is yet another example of a federal government that will twist and turn in the most constitutionally offensive manner to continue to justify Cannabis Prohibition. In a country with a sacredly held First Amendment and a self-evidently failed public policy like seventy-five years of Cannabis Prohibition, trying to silence a citizen—who spent nearly thirty years of his life behind the government’s prison walls for Cannabis Prohibition-created ‘crimes’—from both criticizing the now unpopular government policies surrounding cannabis and prohibiting him from educating willing senior citizens (and even American Bar Association members!) about cannabis as a safe, affordable and efficient (and in 17 states and the District of Columbia legal) alternative medical option to conventional pharmaceuticals (which are often dangerous and expensive as compared to naturally occurring cannabis).

    This is just patently wrong.

    Thankfully, led by NORML Legal Committee members Michael Minardi and board member Norm Kent, Robert has very aggressive and competent legal assistance to regain his freedom of speech. But, Robert indicates a need for us all to contact the U.S. Parole Commission and ask that they respect Robert Platshorn’s ability to speak and travel freely in America without fear of federal government reprisals.

    This man has done his time, he is not breaking any laws, he believes that Cannabis Prohibition policy is bad public policy, people want to hear him speak based on his life’s experience with the policy. In America, no citizen should fear talking publicly to other citizens about public policy, most especially failed and unpopular ones.

    Allen,

    Please get the word out as wide as possible about the federal government trying to stop me from exercising my First Amendment rights to talk publicly about the public policy of Cannabis Prohibition. I was to speak before the national convention of the American Bar Association on Aug. 4th. It would have been a milestone for ending cannabis prohibition. And then the call came, “You are not to travel to promote legalization of marijuana without the express permission of the U.S. Parole Commission in Wash. DC.” This is not a legal condition of parole. It’s a First Amendment violation. If you value your right to free speech, read, act and share. Make a phone call for freedom.

    Robert’s federal parole officer, Scott Kirsche, phoned and rescinded his ability to travel to speak to a premiere gathering of American lawyers, prosecutors and judges; a prime public audience, a group of citizens integrally involved in the machinery of Cannabis Prohibition law enforcement extend an invitation to be educated by a citizen ill-effected by an unpopular public policy, and the federal government moves to stop this transfer of human-to-human information.

    This is so wrong for so many reason.

    Talk about the ‘genie being out of the bottle’, as Robert Platshorn’s crusading educational campaign to south Florida seniors about the need to reform cannabis laws has already been prominently featured in major news outlets over the last three months including the Wall Street Journal, NBC affiliate in Miami and soon to air Comedy Central Daily Show feature that is going to rightly ridicule the federal government for trying to silence Robert Platshorn.

    Think the feds are feeling heat on ending Cannabis Prohibition? You bet when they try to stop people from simply talking about the failed public policy.

    Kirsche to Hirshorn:

    “I am ordered by my superiors [Reginald Michael and Frank Smith] to inform you that your permission to travel to Chicago is rescinded and you cannot travel to promote the legalization of marijuana without the permission of the U.S. Parole Commission in Washington D.C. You must request their permission directly.”

    Correspondence to the U.S. Parole Commission may be sent to:

    U.S. Parole Commission
    Isaac Fulwood, Jr., Commissioner
    90 K Street, N.E., Third Floor
    Washington, D.C. 20530
    (202) 346-7000 (p)
    Media Contact: USPC.media@usdoj.gov

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 2, 2012

    The present classification of cannabis and its organic compounds as schedule I prohibited substances under federal law is scientifically indefensible, according to a just published review in The Open Neurology Journal.

    Investigators with the University of California at San Diego and the University of California, Davis reviewed the results of several recent clinical trials assessing the safety and efficacy of inhaled or vaporized cannabis. They concluded:

    “Evidence is accumulating that cannabinoids may be useful medicine for certain indications. Control of nausea and vomiting and the promotion of weight gain in chronic inanition are already licensed uses of oral THC (dronabinol capsules). Recent research indicates that cannabis may also be effective in the treatment of painful peripheral neuropathy and muscle spasticity from conditions such as multiple sclerosis. Other indications have been proposed, but adequate clinical trials have not been conducted.

    “… The classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug as well as the continuing controversy as to whether or not cannabis is of medical value are obstacles to medical progress in this area. Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking. It is true cannabis has some abuse potential, but its profile more closely resembles drugs in Schedule III (where codeine and dronabinol are listed). The continuing conflict between scientific evidence and political ideology will hopefully be reconciled in a judicious manner.”

    The lead author of the review, Dr. Igor Grant, is the director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research. In recent years, the CMCR has conducted various FDA-approved ‘gold standard’ clinical trials evaluating inhaled cannabis as a therapeutic agent. The results of several of those trials are summarized here.

    Under federal law, schedule I controlled substances are defined as possessing “a high potential for abuse, … no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.” Heroin and Methaqualone (Quaaludes) are examples of other Schedule I substances.

    In 2011, the Obama administration — via the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) — formally denied a nine-year-old administrative petition filed by NORML and a coalition of public interest organizations calling on the agency to initiate hearings to reassess the present classification of marijuana as a schedule I controlled substance without any ‘accepted medical use in treatment.’ In her denial of the petition, DEA administrator Michele Leonhart alleged: “[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.”

    Last month, Ms. Leonhart testified before Congress that she believed that heroin and marijuana posed similar threats to the public’s health because, in her opinion, “all illegal drugs are bad.”

    Coalition advocates are presently appealing the DEA’s denial of their petition in federal court.

    Full text of the paper from The Open Neurology Journal, entitled “Medical Marijuana: Clearing Away the Smoke,” is available online here.

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