Federal Court of Appeals Denies Petition to Reschedule Marijuana

In a 28-page decision, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has denied petitioners request to overturn the July 2011 denial by the Drug Enforcement Administration to initiate proceedings to reschedule marijuana under federal law.

In October 2002, the Coalition to Reschedule Cannabis, a coalition of reform organizations including NORML, ASA, Patients Out of Time and High Times, among others, petitioned the DEA to reschedule marijuana as a Schedule III, IV, or V drug. Following years of administrative delay, on July 8, 2011, the DEA denied the petition, finding that “[t]here is no currently accepted medical use for marijuana in the United States,” and that “[t]he limited existing clinical evidence is not adequate to warrant rescheduling of marijuana under the CSA.”

Petitioners then sought review in the federal Court of Appeals, alleging the decision by the DEA was arbitrary and capricious when it concluded that marijuana lacks a “currently accepted medical use” and has a “high potential for abuse.” They ask this court to remand the case to the DEA for reconsideration of its decision.

Written by Senior Circuit Judge Edwards, the decision ruled “On the record before us, we hold that the DEA’s denial of the rescheduling petition survives review under the deferential arbitrary and capricious standard. The petition asks the DEA to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III, IV, or V drug, which, under the terms of the CSA, requires a ‘currently accepted medical use.’ The DEA’s regulations, which we approved in Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics v. DEA, 15 F.3d 1131 (D.C. Cir. 1994), define ‘currently accepted medical use’ to require, inter alia, ‘adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy.’ Id. at1135. We defer to the agency’s interpretation of these regulations and find that substantial evidence supports its determination that such studies do not exist.

“In its scientific and medical evaluation,” the court held, “DHHS concluded that marijuana lacks a currently accepted medical use in the United States. In reaching this conclusion, DHHS applied the DEA’s established five-prong test, which requires a known and reproducible drug chemistry, adequate safety studies, adequate and well-controlled studies demonstrating efficacy, acceptance of the drug by qualified experts, and widely available scientific evidence.”

“We will not disturb the decision of an agency that has ‘examine[d] the relevant data and articulate[d] a satisfactory explanation for its action including a rational connection between the facts found and the choice made.’”

In this case, we need only look at one factor, the existence of “adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy,” to resolve Petitioners’ claim.

At bottom, the parties’ dispute in this case turns on the agency’s interpretation of its own regulations. Petitioners construe “adequate and well-controlled studies” to mean peer-reviewed, published studies suggesting marijuana’s medical efficacy. The DEA, in contrast, interprets that factor to require something more scientifically rigorous.

In making this assessment, we must “remind ourselves that our role in the Congressional scheme is not to give an independent judgment of our own, but rather to determine whether the expert agency entrusted with regulatory responsibility has taken an irrational or arbitrary view of the evidence assembled before it.

The DEA’s construction of its regulation is eminently reasonable. Therefore, we are obliged to defer to the agency’s interpretation of “adequate and well-controlled studies.” Judged against the DEA’s standard, we find nothing in the record that could move us to conclude that the agency failed to prove by substantial evidence that such studies confirming marijuana’s medical efficacy do not exist.”

Petitioners are considering their legal options at this time.

166 thoughts

  1. Once again, you will not have freedom until you take it and throw them out on their heads. WAKE THE FUCK UP!

  2. While I do believe that marijuana has medical value….OBVIOUS medical value, I maintain that the fight has to be over legality….PERIOD. Nobody has the right to tell me what I can or can’t put in my own body. Using marijuana is a basic human right if a person so wishes to exercise that right.

  3. Did congress rendered the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 to the DEA, and gave them full entitlement to be the supreme judge of those laws?

  4. William and Joel, I can’t agree more. This circular reasoning is so completely devoid of logic and common sense. They still want to arrest people for doing nothing wrong.

    Obama wants to “professionalize” the War on Drugs. That is quite a tall order Mr. President, how can we “get better” at shitting on America?

  5. you guys believe we the people have a say any more… you make me laugh. we the people died along time ago . its about them and there capitalist gains.

  6. The dea has only one job and that is busting cannibis users. They aren’t even interested in real drug trade because they don’t make money off it. They only care about their idiotic strategy to keep getting government funding. Rest assured we are finally beating them at their own game and they will be publicly humiliated when it finally becomes legal everyplace.

    Basically cannabis is the life blood of the dea without it the entire agency goes up in smoke. They will never back down from this fight. It would be like admitting they have been intentionally stealing from the American public for years and wrongfully imprisoning people… Which they have…

  7. It’s true only the Swiss have really done deep study and No controlled Study by any Large university in the US has been able to meet that standard.

  8. How would alcohol be classified, if it were a scheduled drug? I have no problem with strict enforcement of restrictions for minors or even in public, but this policy seems dismissive.

    What actions are being taken towards appealing this case once again?

  9. Ever since prohibition of alcohol many people became alcoholics and problems with alcohol went through the roof. Now in this day and age, we banned cannabis and there are more people smoking weed then ever. Prohibition dosent work stop letting history repeat itself

  10. It’s not that it lacks substantial evidence for medical benefit. It’s that the DEA is completely ignoring any and all evidence of its benefit, for the sake of keeping it illegal.

  11. Nick you got it man. Y’all should of seen Michele Leonhardt of the DEA awhile back in congress when questioned on the CSA whether or not Marijuana is more harmful than cocaine. She responded, marijuana is a schedule 1 drug. Without even answering the question. You never hear their answers because saying so would support Marijuana’s stance. Marijuana is bad, why? Because its illegal! Nonsense!

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