25 Years Ago: DEA’s Own Administrative Law Judge Ruled Cannabis Should Be Reclassified Under Federal Law

  • 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.

    20 responses to “25 Years Ago: DEA’s Own Administrative Law Judge Ruled Cannabis Should Be Reclassified Under Federal Law”

    1. Oliver Steinberg says:

      Along with NORML, the other parties who joined in the petition which Judge Young ruled in favor of were the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics (Bob Randall and ALice O’Leary,) the Cannabis Corporation of America, and the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, whose work is continued to this day by the brilliant Carl Eric Olsen in Des Moines, Iowa. Parties opposed to the re-scheduling were the DEA, the International Chiefs of Police, and a slimy outfit called the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth. Randall and O’Leary later compiled the important briefs and testimony into the two-volume publication “Marijuana, Medicine & The Law.” ISBN 0-935485-02-7. Get a copy if you can!

    2. Growyourown says:

      “…insufficient clinical studies…”, 1000’s of people overdosed on Tylenol, aspirin, cough syrup, etc., buy it over-the -counter, yet, not one ‘OD’ attributed to cannabis and IT’s dangerous? Political appointees cow-towing to the establishment. If cannabis is going to destroy society, it would have done so already. Even Spain allows its citizens to grow their own, just can’t sell it.

    3. BobKat says:

      Makes No Sense! Except that each civilization has it’s faults, though none ludicrous enough to demonize, arrest and make war on people because of a plant. I mean prejudice, genocide, religious wars, wars for territory, even ignoring a populace to the point they suffer and die, makes sense in a sick way – but we have here, since the 1930’s, a war on primarily one plant. Why?

    4. phrtao says:

      All these lies and tricks by politicians and public servants really does make make you wonder what else they are lying to us about.

    5. Judy says:

      Unfortunately, for our society, the powers that be have found it more profitable to keep it illegal. Truly, prohibition has never been about public safety. It is unjust laws based on lies that have enabled some of the rich and powerful.

    6. I would like to thank the honorable judgeFrancis Young on hisdecision that marijuana should be classified as a schedule 2 drug .That the DEA could ignore judge Francis Youngs decision is a travesty of justice. Why did they have a trial only to ignore judge Young’s. decision I sent in an affidavit of my marijuana use to relieve severe muscle spasms as a result of a.diving accident that left me quadriplegic.The DEA had doctors who claimed marijuana had no medical use. One of those doctors said it would be miraculous to relieve my muscle spasms in 5 minutes . Well marijuana does relieve my spasms in 5 minutes.Does that mean that i have experienced 5 or 6 miracles a day for 40 years.That would mean i have experienced about75,000 miracles.Thank GOD fof marijuana

    7. Randall says:

      The 25th year anniversary of Judge Francis Young’s decision is the same day I am diagnosed with glaucoma at age 30. I wonder what this could mean if anything. I think it is merely an interesting coincidence? It would be a disgrace if the US Supreme Court didn’t elect to review a matter that has been filed over a decade ago. The other petition filed by NORML in 1972 is over forty years ago. How could the US Supreme Court just not review the matter makes no sense. It has been getting argued for quite some time. Even though that are two separate petitions.

    8. Tom says:

      To all of the people that has put forth energy,time,and money to get these encouraging recent headlines . To the non violent prisoners,and the victims of warrentless raids. And most of all the cancer patients and patients dealing with other debilitating curses. Take heart! We’re half way there. Keep the faith. Science and voters are turning it all around. Good night. May tomorrow bring pain relief for those who needlessly deal with thier ailments. Abra kazabra.:()

    9. Miles says:

      @David Branstetter – You Sir are the kind of proof the DEA chooses to ignore!

      Thank God for marijuana


      Thank Satan for the DEA; They are truly one of the most evil organizations in the history of mankind!

    10. vickia52 says:

      i guess that i needed a place to vent! some of u may have read some of my other posts. well!!!! WHY is ohio so full of butheads? i didn’t start doing any drugs till i got out of hs. as it is the two i started out with was speed and lsd. never went near opium, heroin, only dabbled with coke, but after not getting anything off pot initially, at about 21 i became a die hard pot head. gate way?, to what? fop dude u r an idiot. i can see where all the seizure $ has gone! and the tobbacco co. who are u kidding? every things about the $ rx. cos., politicians, all a bunch of shit. as i have posted before. it’s us against them! we out # them and yes i am 60 years old and i’m dissappointed with this government! our country is being runied by these crazy people! who are you few, who chase us jail, us and make yourselves rich? be advised we are many! you grey hairs you are dying off, you put us into war after war.