New York, NY: NORML joined a coalition of drug-law reform organizations and individual citizens Wednesday to file a comprehensive rescheduling petition with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to reclassify marijuana so that doctors may legally prescribe it for medicinal purposes. The petition argues that the scientific record doesn't support the DEA's classification that marijuana has no accepted medical use in the United States, is unsafe for use, and has a high potential for abuse. The federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) classifies drugs in five distinct categories - Schedule I through V - with Schedule I drugs being strictly prohibited. Federal law classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance without medical value.
"The DEA has never provided comprehensive scientific evidence to support their self-serving accusations about the [lack of] medical use of cannabis," charged chief petitioner and former NORML National Director Jon Gettman. "They claim these assertions are true simply because they … say they are true, as if the laws of the United States gives them the exclusive power to dictate what are and what are not the true findings of scientific research.
"The laws of the United States do not give the DEA this sort of authority. In fact, the law … obligates [them] to defer to the scientific record when it comes to the medical use of cannabis, and [it] further obligates the DEA to expedite medical access to cannabis. Instead of fulfilling these obligations the DEA instead has a longstanding policy of obstructing the access of patients in need."
Petitioners argue that current evidence of cannabis' therapeutic utility contradicts pot's Schedule I classification. The petition states, "There is also a growing consensus among scientists and health care providers that in lieu of alternatives marijuana is an adequate delivery system for cannabinoid drugs, and more specifically a consensus that data on the medical efficacy of THC and other cannabinoids drugs is sufficient to recognize marijuana's accepted medical use in the United States."
NORML filed a similar rescheduling petition with the DEA in 1972, but was not granted a federal hearing 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.
Gettman and High Times Magazine filed a previous petition with the DEA in 1995. The DEA issued a final denial of that petition in 2001. The U.S. Court of Appeal's upheld the agency's decision in March, ruling that petitioners were not sufficiently injured to have standing to challenge DEA's determinations in federal court.