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D.C. Circuit Sides with DEA: There Is No Accepted Medical Use for Marijuana

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by Publius
Posted January 23, 2013, 9:58 AM

The National Law Journal reports:

A federal appeals court in Washington has upheld the dismissal of a challenge over the government's classification of marijuana as a top-tier dangerous drug.

The advocacy group Americans for Safe Access and several individuals, including a disabled veteran, were fighting the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's refusal to initiate proceedings to reclassify marijuana on the lower schedule.

Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, the DEA classifies marijuana as a "Schedule 1" drug, the most restrictive designation. Federal law, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit noted, largely prohibits the production, sale and use of marijuana.

In rejecting a petition to reclassify marijuana to a lower level, the DEA said there's "no currently accepted medical use for marijuana in the United States" and that the "limited existing clinical evidence is not adequate to warrant rescheduling" marijuana under federal law.

U.S. Justice Department lawyers argued in court papers that the enactment of state laws allowing the medical use of marijuana doesn't "constitute the required science-based evidence" that must be shown for reclassification.

On January 22, the D.C. Circuit divided over whether the challengers have standing to fight the classification of marijuana. Senior Judge Harry Edwards and Judge Merrick Garland concluded the petitioners' fight has legal footing. Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson disagreed.

To reclassify a drug to a lower standard, the DEA needs "adequate and well-controlled" studies showing marijuana's medical efficacy. The appeals court sided with the DEA's contention that studies are lacking on this front.

"We defer to the agency's interpretation of these regulations and find that substantial evidence supports its determination that such studies do not exist," Edwards said in the court's ruling.

The challengers, in their petition seeking the reclassification of marijuana, presented more than 200 peer-reviewed studies that purport to show the medical benefits of marijuana. The D.C. Circuit said the challengers "singular reliance on 'peer-reviewed' studies misses the mark."

The DEA, the appeals court said, interprets "adequate and well-controlled studies" to be more "scientifically rigorous" than peer-reviewed, published studies.

The "petitioners may have cited some peer–reviewed articles in support of their position, but they have not pointed to 'adequate and well-controlled studies' confirming the efficacy of marijuana for medicinal uses," Edwards wrote in the court ruling. 

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