Appeals Court To Review DEA’s Dismissal Of Cannabis Rescheduling Petition

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: Additional information on the 2002 petition to reschedule cannabis is available at:

57 thoughts

  1. “Everyone deserves a turn like theDEA deserves to burn. We drink poison and then vomit diamonds.” Damian Marley Tribal War lyric remixed.

  2. Hoping maybe someone more familiar with this case, or with more legal training can help in explaining the D.C. Court’s order filed on 10/16/2012, the day after oral argument. I pulled the document off of PACER, and this order reads as follows:

    “It is ORDERED, on the court’s own motion, that within five days of the date of this order, Petitioner will clarify and amplify the assertions made in paragraph 4 of the Affidavit of Michael Krawitz regarding his individual standing. Petitioner may submit a further affidavit, as necessary, and a brief not to exceed five pages, to more fully explain precisely
    the nature of the injury that gives him standing, including but not limited to what he means by his “prescription pain treatment by the VA,” what pain treatments and counselling he is denied by the VA, what pain treatment he receives from “an outside M.D.,” and what he means when he says he receives pain treatment from an outside M.D. “under the VA’s fee
    basis program.” The Government, in turn, will have five days after Petitioner’s submissions to respond in a brief not to exceed five pages, plus an affidavit if necessary.”

    That was the Per Curiam order by Garland and Edwards, with J. Henderson dissenting as follows:

    “Judge Henderson dissents based on Sierra Club v. EPA, 292 F.3d 895, 900 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (“Absent good cause shown . . . a litigant should not expect the court to” allow it to submit “‘post-argument affidavits further demonstrating [its] standing”)

    [Paul Armentano replies: See today’s NORML News release for further details on Tuesday’s oral arguments. The ASA blog also has detailed updates of the hearing and the Court’s order for supplemental briefings here:

  3. i would be ecstatic if it fell under the same laws as alcohol honestly. these are just footsteps to full legalization of marijuana. funny because if anything it helps people and should not be classified as a drug. ever.

  4. Considering how dangerous “legal” drugs are, how could a plant ever be deemed harmfull? Something is wrong when nature is seen as bad. Also a plant isi’nt a drug. If you choose to extract a certain substance, that where problems arize. All plants are for the benefit of all humanity.

  5. According to testimony from DEA attorney Lena Watkins, 15 studies pertaining to the medicinal value of marijuana which adhere to “specific federal quality” standards have been conducted, but “we don’t have the final results yet.”

    I have questions.
    What studies are these?
    Who is conducting them? Where?
    When were they begun?
    How long a study, when should each be completed?
    What are the preliminary results?

    Answers to these questions could reveal more deliberate ‘foot-dragging’ by the DEA, another delaying tactic to prevent cannabis from being rescheduled. I searched online for answers to these questions, without satisfaction.

  6. I cant believe that are gov. is so twisted and immoral to say the least cruel and hypocritical. #e swear on a bible to tell the truth. and the first page of Genesis tells you that God made all plant bearing seeds as a gift to us to take as food. Not a hard concept to follow, I am a christian, this is my scripture, I thought one of the cornerstones of our country was freedom of religion.

    What are these people doing when they get cancer and have to go through chemo or deal with pain medication I personally dont want our society to be a group of drug addicts or denied the freedom to drink or smoke booze or cigs, but I know for a fact that these two drugs could not pass the test that they are monkey fucking on cannabis. perhaps we need a full prohibition of all drugs denying all the drunken politicians and right wing idiots to be denied their booze of choice so they can feel what it is like. Let them have to live as criminals to get their recreational choice. I really feel that the corporations of the robber barons are behind this, knowing a drunk society is easier to control than a free thinking individualistic free people.

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