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rescheduling

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 5, 2013

    Friday, September 6, 2013 marks the 25-year anniversary of an administrative ruling which determined that cannabis possesses accepted medical utility and ought to be reclassified accordingly under federal law.

    The ruling, issued in 1988 by US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Chief Administrative Law Judge Francis Young “In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling,” determined: “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care.”

    Young continued: “It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.”

    Judge Young concluded: “The administrative law judge recommends that the Administrator conclude that the marijuana plant considered as a whole has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, that there is no lack of accepted safety for use of it under medical supervision and that it may lawfully be transferred from Schedule I to Schedule II [of the federal Controlled Substances Act].”

    Judge Young’s ruling was in response to an administrative petition filed in 1972 by NORML which sought to reschedule cannabis under federal law. Federal authorities initially refused to accept the petition until mandated to do so by the US Court of Appeals in 1974, and then refused to properly process it until again ordered by the Court in 1982. In 1986, 14-years after NORML filed its initial petition, the DEA finally held public hearings on the issue before Judge Young, who rendered his decision two years later.

    However, then-DEA Administrator John Lawn ultimately rejected Young’s determination, and in 1994, the Court of Appeals allowed Lawn’s reversal to stand – maintaining marijuana’s present classification as a Schedule I prohibited substance with “no accepted medical use,” and a “lack of accepted safety … under medical supervision.”

    In July 2011, the DEA rejected a separate marijuana rescheduling petition, initially filed in 2002. This past January, a three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed the DEA’s decision, ruling that insufficient clinical studies exist to warrant a judicial review of cannabis’ federally prohibited status. Petitioners have appealed the ruling to the US Supreme Court, which may or may not elect to review the matter.

  • 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 July 8, 2011

    Earlier today, United States DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart reaffirmed in the Federal Register the administration’s ‘flat Earth’ position regarding the medical properties of cannabis.

    Responding to a nine-year-old petition to reclassify marijuana under federal law filed by a coalition of advocacy groups, including NORML and California NORML, Leonhart stated, “[T]here is no substantial evidence that marijuana should be removed from schedule I.”

    A summary of Ms. Leonhart’s ‘reasoning’ is below. (Read the DEA’s full response here.)

    DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

    Drug Enforcement Administration

    21 CFR Chapter II [Docket No. DEA–352N]

    Denial of Petition To Initiate Proceedings
    To Reschedule Marijuana

    AGENCY: Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Department of Justice. ACTION:

    Denial of petition to initiate proceedings to reschedule marijuana.

    (1) Marijuana has a high potential for abuse. The DHHS evaluation and the additional data gathered by DEA show that marijuana has a high potential for abuse.

    (2) Marijuana has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. According to established case law, marijuana has no ‘‘currently accepted medical use’’ because: The drug’s chemistry is not known and reproducible; there are no adequate safety studies; there are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts; and the scientific evidence is not widely available.

    (3) Marijuana lacks accepted safety for use under medical supervision. At present, there are no U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved marijuana products, nor is marijuana under a New Drug Application (NDA) evaluation at the FDA for any indication. Marijuana does not have a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions. 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.

    Coalition advocates will be appealing Leonhart’s decision in federal court.

    NORML had 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.

    NORML will have additional information on this story in next week’s NORML media advisory.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 23, 2011

    A coalition of public interest advocacy groups filed suit today in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to compel the Obama administration to respond to a nine-year-old petition to reclassify marijuana under federal law.

    The suit was filed by attorneys Joe Elford of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and Michael Kennedy of the NORML Legal Committee on behalf of the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC). The Coalition, which includes NORML and California NORML, filed a comprehensive rescheduling petition with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on October 9, 2002 challenging marijuana’s Schedule I classification as a controlled substance with “no currently accepted medical use” and a “high potential for abuse.” The agency formally accepted the petition for filing on April 3, 2003, and per the provisions of the United States Controlled Substances Act (CSA) referred the petition to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in July 2004 for a full scientific and medical evaluation.

    To date, the federal government has not publicly responded to the petition.

    Today’s lawsuit petitions the Court for a writ of mandamus “directing the DEA and the Attorney General to issue a full and final determination on petitioners’ Petition to reschedule marijuana, or, alternatively, state whether it will initiate rulemaking proceedings, within 60 days.”

    It states: “The DEA’s delay here of more than eight years since the rescheduling Petition was filed — and more than four years since it received HHS’ binding evaluation and recommendations — is inexcusable. … [T]his agency delay in acting on the rescheduling Petition is unreasonable, requiring this Court to intervene.”

    Under the CSA, the Attorney General has the authority to reschedule a drug if he finds that it does not meet the criteria for the schedule to which it has been assigned. The Attorney General has delegated this authority to the Administrator of the DEA, presently Michelle Leonhart.

    The 2002 CRC petition seeks to reschedule cannabis from its Schedule I designation to a less restrictive class under the CSA “on the grounds that: (1) marijuana does have accepted medical uses in the United States; (2) it is safe for use under medical supervision and has an abuse potential lower than Schedule I and II drugs; and (3) it has a dependence liability that is also lower than Schedule I or II drugs.”

    NORML 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 in 1995, but was rejected by the DEA in 2001.

    Additional information on this suit will appear in this week’s NORML news update. To receive these e-mail updates free, please sign up here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 15, 2011

    NORML’s youtube channel, NORML TV, recently launched a new video series entitled ‘Ask NORML,’ which features NORML staff answering questions submitted by you — the marijuana law reform activist.

    In the debut episode, NORML founder and legal counsel Keith Stroup speaks about NORML’s past and ongoing efforts to reschedule cannabis under federal law.

    Subscribe to NORML TV and visit NORML’s Facebook page for announcements regarding future ‘Ask NORML’ episodes and how you can have your questions answered by NORML. Also stay tuned to NORML TV for periodic episodes of ‘NORML Update,’ which feature video highlights from NORML affiliated events around the nation.

    Get active; get NORML!

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