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. Since there is “no known medical value,” maybe we need to sue for a release of the patent the government holds…I mean, which is it?

  2. Bill Maher and similarly deep pocketed and influential individuals need to sign a complaint and fund a campaign against Bayer or whoever is the pharma company peddling Marinol. Marinol is Delta-9-THC, and therefore must be illegal if Pot is illegal simply because it is substantially the same. DEMAND arrests! Of course no big pharma company will face prosecution, so the absurd discrepancy must be pushed until the executive branch decides it will not prosecute anyone for Marinol/Delta-9-THC Schedule 1 violations.

  3. Did the dismissal actually say what they would consider ‘accepted medical use’ for cannabis (‘marijuana’ is a slang term). Who must accept the utility of cannabis for them to consider it. There are doctors prescribing it and finding it effective. There is also academic research that acknowledges the medical efficacy of cannabis.

    To say there is NO evidence they must get some one who is medically qualified (not a judge, government official, politician etc) to question the legitimacy of ALL research that shows a medical application and discredit the doctors who report medical benefits. That is a hard task because no one with a medical career would put their name to such an exercise (doctors don’t discredit fellow doctors without good cause). Maybe a new challenge to question/clarify what is ‘accepted’ evidence would be appropriate.

  4. I do hope people will remember this when they vote a straight party ticket.

    Federal government wants to remind the citizens of the United States that their country and their state is subjugated by federal law even if it’s not constitutional.

  5. Marty
    Beautifully written! I would urge you to submit this as a letter to every large newspaper you can. It deserves to be read by the public that don’t read this site (and may not even be aware that it exists) in order to reach as wide an audience as possible.
    Thank you for taking the time to write this!!!

  6. It sounds like Capital Hill are a bunch of pussies or bitches. Now that majority African-Americans males are in jail, more-or-so for bud, now its time to “legalize the cannabis” again in America. CANNABIS IS JUST FOOD!!

    A plant cannot lie to you, only you can lie to it.

  7. I come to the conclusion that the only medicine allowed for use must be scientifically proven to create more health problems that require more medicine.It is becoming more clear with every event that comes to pass that the entire way of life and doing business hinges solely on cannabis being illegal.

  8. We have been pushed beyond the breaking point.The government has manically tried to eradicate the in-eradicatable. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. As such, i believe the prison industrial complex and the special interest groups are insane. Either that or they are profiting hand over fist enforcing these cruel policies. Checks and balances means when one branch of government hurts people, the other branches step up to stop it. This has not happened for our situation. almost all reform initiatives have come from THE PEOPLE. Something is wrong. We’ve tried tirelessly to force a conversation. What else can we do to stop this madness!?

  9. @Marty – I cannot see myself participating in a hunger strike when the prohibitionists would be happy to let us all die.

  10. Maybe if the DEA, and these Judges would read the Fed Govt’s in-depth reports regarding patent# 6630507, the 3 complete Fed Gov’t reports of LaGuardia, The Shaffer Commission, Chief DEA FED Law Judge Francis L. Young’s extensive 2 year Findings of Fact,and listen to the testimony from Millions of Patients who are benefiting from medical marijuana instead of the outright, corrupted false lies that have been proven over, and over again to be just the vapors of stench with no merit, they would then rule on the side of justice.

  11. When you have people like this in charge/head > Michele Leonhart > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykwaXsQY6Eg , what do you expect? If people like Michele Leonhart are in seat, hell will freeze prior of marijuana becomes rescheduled, right there defines stupid and stupid is stupid does.

    Wasn’t no surprise to see they denied rescheduling of marijuana.

    Need more people like Polis, Paul Whitesell, and one that recently admitted, they’ve lost the war on drugs. Need to get all these heads together to run this country and people like them that has more than half a brain.

    I will continue to display the good names these guys that fight for us, in my comments.

    Come on, we have, the state police, the congressman’s, the people, how much longer could this be ignored? Really? It’s very irritating, like a big blood sucking tick just gnawing at your leg.

    Marijuana keeps my bi-polar, A.D.D., at bay. It is easier to name off what marijuana doesn’t do for you than to name off what it does help/cure.

    Plain out stupidity and greed.

  12. The US Federal Monkey Court of Appeals for We The People. Once Again Screwed, wow what a surprise! Who needs, science, common sense and years of a FAILED DRUG WAR to look back on! The US Federal Monkey Court of Appeals, What Jokers! Monkey Courts are so Amusing, NOT. IDIOTS

  13. @erin – Thank you and i will try to find some trusted media sources that would help, maybe NORML knows of a few?!?!

    @Don M – I don’t blame you and really don’t expect many to take the chance but its time the lives that have been lost and destroyed be on those who oppress us. I’m literally sick to keep seeing lives lost over this matter while those responsible are not being held responsible for taking these lives and destroying families. Even if you didn’t do it, i would need many to be vocal supporters, which i believe you would be willing to do. thanks for the reply Mr. M, much appreciated.

  14. The reason for the seemingly inexplicable disconnect of the govt. in continuing the lack of medical value claim while at the same time holding the patent for cannabinoids as medicine is because the FDA is currently holding clinical 3 trials with Sativex right here in the US (ref: NIH/Nat. Cancer Institute website). Sativex, produced by GW Pharmaceuticals (UK) in partnership with Bayer, Novartis, Otsuka, Almirall and Neopharm is nothing more than a whole-plant cannabis herbal tincture in a spray bottle cleverly disguised as a “pharmaceutical” product. It’s currently approved in about 8 European countries. Once it’s approved here, they will justify their continued war on using “raw cannabis” claiming somehow that their product is different and better than what has been available for many years now in medical cannabis states.

  15. Right…because every drug that we can access openly, like alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine, have clear medical uses with long histories of positive research and confirmation…

  16. Yes well written Marty Erin right this should be put in newspapers. like the one in Washington d.c. Let all our so called leaders read this.

  17. I am not at all surprised. Even if all 50 States declare pot legal, the feds will probably still insist it’s still Illegal by federal law. Probably if that happens, it’ll become something that’s not as enforced. Who knows, mayhap it’ll change, as States slowly make it legal. 😉

    Here’s Hoping.. 😉

  18. The only way to end Cannabis prohibition is by passing local state level legalization measures! The Feds will have no power over the people.

  19. Petitioners: We petition the Court to reschedule marijuana.

    Court: Yeah, OK. We defer to the judgement of the Agency.

    Agency: Good job, Judge! Making that easy money, eh?

    Judge: ‘I know. ‘ere…

  20. Forget the feds. The states need to take this into their own hands and legalize it. The States will force the Feds hand!

  21. in 2003 the US Government obtained a patent #6630507 that states the Marijuana in fact has medicinal value. If tens of thousands of people signed a petition and wrote letters (like myself) how can they deny us the simple fact to just follow through with the bill? It’s a waste of time. The federal government “thinks” it has all the control now and will do what it wants no matter the voice or opinion of its citizens.

  22. Our government will bankrupt our nation before releasing hemp to the open market in the US or anywhere in the world because the backbone of the world economy is rooted in corporations that depend on hemp prohibition remaining in place.

    The oil industry,,with bio-fuel produced from renewable hemp crops,,how would they keep their profits and assets secure if they couldn’t have fuel shortages and price control when they cannot control farmers but they can turn off oil wells? And they are a major part of the foundation of our economy.

    And of course the pharmaceutical corporations,,if you are familiar with all the health issues cannabis can treat,,imagine the losses they will suffer from cannabis legalization.

    The arms manufacturers,,imagine no wars over oil or the loss of control when any country can grow enough hemp to fuel their own transportation systems.

    And all the other hemp products from lumber to plastic that our markets depend on selling other countries.

    It is going to take a serious in their face situation to ever change and it may take more patriots blood to cleanse the roots of freedom.

  23. When the government is part of the problem and refuses to be fixed, then it is time to replace the government.

  24. Clay, marijuana prohibition isn’t good for the economy, the war on marijuana and the war on drugs are helping kill the economy. The more money we spend, the worst it gets. Sure, the war on drugs is making some folks rich, but these folks are a very small minority, much smaller than say the minority population of pot heads 🙂 Its like a giant leach constantly sucking money out of the economy so it can get bigger and do more damage, putting more people out of work.

    It stagnates the economy and liquidates our wealth. Sort of like pissing in the wind, but way more stupid.

  25. As mentioned above, the end of Nixon’s CSA Drug War, the longest war in US history, against its own citizenry, will come when the states have decided. Two-thirds of states (33) with medical marijuana allowances written into law will presumably determine “accepted medical use.” Eighteen states have MMJ laws now. Two have legalized cannabis, and one of those, Colorado has provided for cultivation of 6 plants and will determine new legislation (by 2014) regarding the cultivation of industrial hemp.

    The Supreme court acknowledged (Randall vs. US) that cannabis has a known medical use of lowering intraocular pressure which is incidentally beneficial to those who risk blindness from glaucoma, which is caused by persistently high pressures within the eye. The US patent office also has acknowledged this beneficial effect of cannabis use, first discovered by narcs who were trying to find a way to test for those who had used cannabis (so they could arrest them for non-crimes)

    Antiemetic, antispasmodic, neuroprotective, and antineoplastic are all properties attributed to cannabis, not as false claims, or imaginary benefits, not anecdotal stories, but tested through peer-reviewed science.

    The DEA has a primary mission to keep cannabis in schedule 1 and lie about it. That was the point of Nixon’s CSA, created by Nixon right after he charged the Shafer Commission to determine, somewhat concretely, what should be done about cannabis, and who could have access to it, as if such a thing were a high priority.

    The Shafer commission concluded that illegalization would be unreasonable and baseless and that cannabis has medically useful properties, mentioning that it has a potential use to treat tumors (cancer). Nixon ignored all this and in his flippant, bitter style, created the CSA, had his attorney general John mitchell put drugs into schedule categories. Two guys did this and Mitchell was a lawyer, not a doctor. Hello? People?

    Shafer commission on cannabis by Nixon, and then CSA and declared drug war by Nixon, around the same time? Um. Hello? People?

    So there are over 20 federal agencies related to drugs. The DEA is charged with keeping cannabis in schedule 1, no matter what. The NIDA is charged with the allocation of funding, of scientific research regarding drugs, and specifically will fund only research proposals that seek to find/discover the negative effects, only harm and not the benefits, of drugs. Everyone knows federally funded research returns the most benefits from fields of scientific inquiry because this work is prohibitively expensive.

    Both agencies are non-scientific. The DEA will never stop claiming “no medical use” until it is has been relinquished of duty and dissolved, and no federal court is going to call them out on that false claim, period, judges don’t want to get themselves fired or entrapped in bureaucratic “justice” outside the courts.

    NIDA specifically is defined as an agency that provides and allows for scientific research regarding “drugs” (those other than pharma) by allocating fed research funds to those that meet their criteria. They only allow for studies and research proposals that are meant to find the harm of drugs, not the good or benefits. Wait, an organization that empowers scientific research but only selectively, toward results that reinforce conclusions they are searching for, a disgrace to objectivity and empiricism. And for political reasons, political meaning ‘who gets what.’ They are simply covering up information, ignoring or suppressing what information that doesn’t suit their task of maintaining the drug war, by serving as an arm of the propaganda machine

    the states will decide in the end, not the system that supports the status quo.

    And when the need for these agencies disappears accordingly, they’ll be reabsorbed or modified toward other tasks, using their billions of dollar budgets to “do stuff”

    After alcohol was no longer the enemy they made “drugs” the enemy even though alcohol is still a drug too. After states legalize, these sorts will need to find some other activity to call “work”

  26. Everyone who supports the decriminalization, full out legalization and downgrade of marijuana as a schedule 1 drug, to less then that of cocaine & heroin, should send the DEA a letter of response to just how ridiculous their decision is. Very ridiculous and absurd.
    Soon, most of the states like mine here in WA will join our fight for legalization of this plant. When there are even southern states like Arkansas who put it on their ballots in 2012 election, but narrowly failed, then you know the country’s mindset on this issue has changed, just like it did for alcohol prohibition, one by one, the states overturned it. I am hopeful of the changes coming.

    DEA Website:

  27. This petition denial must go on to the supreme court. Take one example of evidence; marijuana provides direct medicinal treatment for Chrone’s disease. The university of Colorado at Boulder, the university of Meir in Israel and I believe a research institute from Berlin all published evidence in various journals of medicine including the harvard journal that cannabidoids in marijuana simulated the cb1 cannabidoid that people with Chrone’s disease lack.
    My nephew has Chrone’s disease. The side effects of the long list of pills he is overprescribed are so bad that one day he stopped taking them. He told his parents he would rather die with dignity facing the symptoms of Chrone’s disease than suffer the symptoms of those pills again. When my nephew first developed Chrone’s disease he was busted by his parents smoking pot. His mother, my sister, being a school teacher and his father a German pilot like to follow the rules. They forbade him to smoke and refused to pay for his college as punishment. The bitter irony of this failure of American drug policy is that research on the cb1 cannabidoid (research that is actively prevented by the DEA), shows that the psychoactive properties of THC– that make us “high” can be seperated from the cb1-simulating cannabidoid that causes us to feel hungry, absorb nutrients through stimulation of the intestines and as a result, cures Chrone’s disease! Even on the principal of not wanting to get your children “high” regardless of legality, there is evidence of more medicine in some home-grown marijuana than all eleven pills prescribed to fail. We must stop the unacceptable profit of phàrmacuetical companies that wish to sell harmful drugs at the expense of people with chrone’s disease who suffer needlessly.
    Take that to the supreme court Normal. And may God bless every seed bearing plant and herb God made for us to use.

  28. excuse me America. Gateway means? Gateway drug for conservatives means alcohol will lead you to cocaine, crack, meth, heroine, etc.

    Marijuana leads you to being Peaceful and loving . Dont forget Conservatives- Non- Violent and Peaceful.

  29. Why is it that the Midwest is soo uptight?

    You can be pulled over because the officer or State Trooper noticed you had a large Pimple visible from his squad car. Or perhaps a tail light out , or driving 5miles slower because it is icey. What happens next – the officer asks you for drivers license and registration. Then, He asks you intokhis car against your will. That is also known as a temporary Jail. asks you numerous questions he feels… Do not answer them. He is stalling for the K-9 officer to arrive… Nightmare!

  30. Its time for the supreme court to overturn the controlled substance act. Let’s vote a democratic congress in 2014 in hopes we will have a functional government to pass this long overdue federal legislation. It will be the last two years of Obama’s second term, his girls are ols enough to choose what medicine is right for them, and the states are already speaking in the majority for these issues. Ending the drug wars, developing home-grówn medicine for a growing mental health crisis and legalizing industrial hemp to create environmentally safe cellulose plastics are more than good economic sense; its in the interest of our national security.

  31. jim
    Another well written piece! I wish I were as eloquent with the written word.
    Both your and Marty’s comments should be addressed to EVERY large newspaper you can find. They may not be published by some, but if they realize that these letters to the editor are cc’d to everyone, some of these papers will print them!
    By sending this information only to this site, you’re essentially preaching to the choir.
    This has to be read by the general public!

    THANK YOU!!!

  32. In response to the Patent # you can all read it here. The government has known about these findings for many eons. I think I will have to send this to my new Governor Inslee and the DEA. I want it in the DEA;s face. http://www.google.com/patents/US6630507

    OBTW: Governor Inslee: Pot legalization must inspire (Article) January 24, 2013 4:42 pm’confidence’http://www.kplu.org/post/governor-inslee-pot-legalization-must-inspire-confidence

  33. When will you people learn they don’t give a damn what we the people think. They only care about those who have bought their votes.

  34. Circular reasoning!

    1. We will not re-schedule marijuana because there is no acceptable use.
    2. There is no acceptable use because there isn’t enough research.
    3. The DEA denies research because there they is no acceptable use.

    The marijuana stamp laws also used circular reasoning. It was illegal to possess marijuana without a stamp, but to get a stamp, you had to present marijiana, but if you did that, instead of selling you a stamp, they arrested you for possessing marijuana without a stamp.

    Remember Catch-22? You could only get out of the military if you were crazy, but you first had to fill out a form that said you were crazy. However, by filling out the form to escape the war, that proved you were sane because a crazy person wouldn’t have tried to escape the war, and so your request was denied.

    This is unconstitutional, and it’s tyrrany. I want the liberty guaranteed me in the Constitution.

  35. Obama recently stated that fighting Colorado and Washington state over legalization wasn’t going to be a wise use of resources nor a priority.

    Based on his past statements/actions, that’s code words for a new crackdown.

  36. In addition to using circular reasoning, the federal government’s argument is a syllogism. They’re using their own decision to not accept a medical use as proof that it has no medical use.

    Deciding that marijuana has no medical use doesn’t prove that it has no medical use. It only proves that they have decided that it has no medical use.

    Someone either needs to study logic or ethics, or both.

  37. Speaking of re-scheduling drugs, the Obama administration is now going to re-schedule common pain meds to make them more difficult to get. Prepare to suffer.

    And I noticed that he waited until he was re-elected to do this.

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