Washington, DC: The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on Friday formally denied a nine-year-old petition 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.'
A coalition of public interest organizations, including NORML and California NORML, filed a comprehensive rescheduling petition with the DEA on October 9, 2002. This past May, the coalition filed suit in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to compel the Obama administration to respond to their petition to reclassify marijuana under federal law.
DEA administrator Michele Leonhart posted a letter denying the petition in the July 8, 2011 edition of the Federal Register. Leonhart stated that cannabis has "a high potential for abuse; ... no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States; ... [and] lacks accepted safety for use under medical supervision."
She added: "[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."
Responding to the DEA's rejection, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: "The DEA is predictably maintaining its decades-old 'flat Earth' position in regards to the otherwise well-acknowledged therapeutic properties of cannabis. It is a shame to see an administration that pledged to be guided by 'scientific integrity' engage in such blatant politicization."
Coalition advocates will be appealing the 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.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, or Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel, at (202) 483-5500.