25 Years Ago: DEA’s Own Administrative Law Judge Ruled Cannabis Should Be Reclassified Under Federal Law

Friday, September 6, 2013 marks the 25-year anniversary of an administrative ruling which determined that cannabis possesses accepted medical utility and ought to be reclassified accordingly under federal law.

The ruling, issued in 1988 by US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Chief Administrative Law Judge Francis Young “In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling,” determined: “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care.”

Young continued: “It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.”

Judge Young concluded: “The administrative law judge recommends that the Administrator conclude that the marijuana plant considered as a whole has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, that there is no lack of accepted safety for use of it under medical supervision and that it may lawfully be transferred from Schedule I to Schedule II [of the federal Controlled Substances Act].”

Judge Young’s ruling was in response to an administrative petition filed in 1972 by NORML which sought to reschedule cannabis under federal law. Federal authorities initially refused to accept the petition until mandated to do so by the US Court of Appeals in 1974, and then refused to properly process it until again ordered by the Court in 1982. In 1986, 14-years after NORML filed its initial petition, the DEA finally held public hearings on the issue before Judge Young, who rendered his decision two years later.

However, then-DEA Administrator John Lawn ultimately rejected Young’s determination, and in 1994, the Court of Appeals allowed Lawn’s reversal to stand – maintaining marijuana’s present classification as a Schedule I prohibited substance with “no accepted medical use,” and a “lack of accepted safety … under medical supervision.”

In July 2011, the DEA rejected a separate marijuana rescheduling petition, initially filed in 2002. This past January, a three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed the DEA’s decision, ruling that insufficient clinical studies exist to warrant a judicial review of cannabis’ federally prohibited status. Petitioners have appealed the ruling to the US Supreme Court, which may or may not elect to review the matter.

20 thoughts

  1. Along with NORML, the other parties who joined in the petition which Judge Young ruled in favor of were the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics (Bob Randall and ALice O’Leary,) the Cannabis Corporation of America, and the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, whose work is continued to this day by the brilliant Carl Eric Olsen in Des Moines, Iowa. Parties opposed to the re-scheduling were the DEA, the International Chiefs of Police, and a slimy outfit called the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth. Randall and O’Leary later compiled the important briefs and testimony into the two-volume publication “Marijuana, Medicine & The Law.” ISBN 0-935485-02-7. Get a copy if you can!

  2. “…insufficient clinical studies…”, 1000’s of people overdosed on Tylenol, aspirin, cough syrup, etc., buy it over-the -counter, yet, not one ‘OD’ attributed to cannabis and IT’s dangerous? Political appointees cow-towing to the establishment. If cannabis is going to destroy society, it would have done so already. Even Spain allows its citizens to grow their own, just can’t sell it.

  3. Makes No Sense! Except that each civilization has it’s faults, though none ludicrous enough to demonize, arrest and make war on people because of a plant. I mean prejudice, genocide, religious wars, wars for territory, even ignoring a populace to the point they suffer and die, makes sense in a sick way – but we have here, since the 1930’s, a war on primarily one plant. Why?

  4. All these lies and tricks by politicians and public servants really does make make you wonder what else they are lying to us about.

  5. Unfortunately, for our society, the powers that be have found it more profitable to keep it illegal. Truly, prohibition has never been about public safety. It is unjust laws based on lies that have enabled some of the rich and powerful.

  6. I would like to thank the honorable judgeFrancis Young on hisdecision that marijuana should be classified as a schedule 2 drug .That the DEA could ignore judge Francis Youngs decision is a travesty of justice. Why did they have a trial only to ignore judge Young’s. decision I sent in an affidavit of my marijuana use to relieve severe muscle spasms as a result of a.diving accident that left me quadriplegic.The DEA had doctors who claimed marijuana had no medical use. One of those doctors said it would be miraculous to relieve my muscle spasms in 5 minutes . Well marijuana does relieve my spasms in 5 minutes.Does that mean that i have experienced 5 or 6 miracles a day for 40 years.That would mean i have experienced about75,000 miracles.Thank GOD fof marijuana

  7. The 25th year anniversary of Judge Francis Young’s decision is the same day I am diagnosed with glaucoma at age 30. I wonder what this could mean if anything. I think it is merely an interesting coincidence? It would be a disgrace if the US Supreme Court didn’t elect to review a matter that has been filed over a decade ago. The other petition filed by NORML in 1972 is over forty years ago. How could the US Supreme Court just not review the matter makes no sense. It has been getting argued for quite some time. Even though that are two separate petitions.

  8. To all of the people that has put forth energy,time,and money to get these encouraging recent headlines . To the non violent prisoners,and the victims of warrentless raids. And most of all the cancer patients and patients dealing with other debilitating curses. Take heart! We’re half way there. Keep the faith. Science and voters are turning it all around. Good night. May tomorrow bring pain relief for those who needlessly deal with thier ailments. Abra kazabra.:()

  9. @David Branstetter – You Sir are the kind of proof the DEA chooses to ignore!

    Thank God for marijuana


    Thank Satan for the DEA; They are truly one of the most evil organizations in the history of mankind!

  10. i guess that i needed a place to vent! some of u may have read some of my other posts. well!!!! WHY is ohio so full of butheads? i didn’t start doing any drugs till i got out of hs. as it is the two i started out with was speed and lsd. never went near opium, heroin, only dabbled with coke, but after not getting anything off pot initially, at about 21 i became a die hard pot head. gate way?, to what? fop dude u r an idiot. i can see where all the seizure $ has gone! and the tobbacco co. who are u kidding? every things about the $ rx. cos., politicians, all a bunch of shit. as i have posted before. it’s us against them! we out # them and yes i am 60 years old and i’m dissappointed with this government! our country is being runied by these crazy people! who are you few, who chase us jail, us and make yourselves rich? be advised we are many! you grey hairs you are dying off, you put us into war after war.

  11. So why are people being arrested? Isn’t illegal to just tell a judge to go scratch? AFAICT, marijuana has been completely legal since 1972. The rest is just smoke and mirrors that are so how “more important” than the truth.

    How can anyone believe actions like this command respect? People tend to dislike scam artists… So why is this still happening?

  12. I am thinking its about time that we organize a political party for us to run for offices around the nation i.e.. the tea party should be something like the weed party.
    work on electing ourselves to the houses of government and cities as i think any of us is better capable of running these offices as a whole.
    People please take this seriously not in jest lets start a forum about it and actually act on it if this proves to be something that we agree on

  13. It is clearly a conflict of interest for the DEA, which depends on maintaining the Prohibition of certain substances, to have the authority to prevent the rescheduling of those same substances. And it was a stroke of (evil) genius to setup that conflict of interest in the first place.

  14. Finely, a good idea. Yes drop the tea from Willy Nelsons tea pot party. Or get the Constitutional Libertarians to fully back Cannabis / Hemp freedom. Abolish the Controlled Substance Law and DEA.
    DOJ comments are BC.
    His list of bullet points is full of BS also. The last five are hype and rhetoric.
    No one in any cannabis supply store or dispensary ever sold other drugs. No one is violent. Guns are for self protection. Drugged driving is safer that the stupid people already out there. Growing on public land is caused by the prohibition. Environmental danger is the same as any farm. And the last one “preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.” Federal conceit, like it is their land and not ours. Some how we let these people think they are the ultimate power. They are not, the people are. Below the people, is the local Sheriff. Then state law. Then Federal. The only power Federal has is with-holding our money.

  15. In 1986, we formed the Minnesota Grassroots Party because in Minnesota we don’t have the initiative procedure to place the law onto the ballot for a direct vote by the people, as they have done in Colorado and Washington and other states.
    The purpose of the Grassroots Party was to use the electoral process to oppose the drug witch hunt and to advocate re-legalization of cannabis for all its uses–personal enjoyment, medicinal, industrial.
    We started running candidates for office in 1986 and continued until 2000. We hoped that if we raised the issue, the professional politicians eventually would see it was popular and then they would support reform. Historically, that is how controversial ideas sometimes get accepted into the American political system. A third party begins to siphon votes away from the professionals, so they swipe the popular planks from the amateurs.
    For a few years we built up support–sometimes running a complete ticket for statewide races; in 1988 and 1992 we put Jack Herer on the ballot for President. In ’92 Jack was on the ballot in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and I believe Vermont.
    Internal disputes disrupted the Grassroots Party in the mid-’90’s and the most charismatic leader was sent to federal prison for smuggling herb.
    The party was revived in 2010, running candidates for Governor and Auditor, and in 2012 placing candidates on the ballot for U.S. Senator and President. With a shoestring campaign and no real organization, we were still able to get over 1% of the statewide vote, thus qualifying as a recognized minor political party. This makes us eligible to receive funds through the state election public financing law.
    This has been a serious attempt to truly raise the issues of prohibition, such as mass incarceration and unchecked crime, which politicians ignore; and also to explain the benefits of legalization and the promise of cannabis culture and economics.
    We find plenty of people willing to defy the law and not enough people willing to roll up their sleeves and work to change the law.
    Willie Nelson’s Teapot Party could assume the same role in the other states that lack the ballot initiative procedure. Or, you could contact the Grassroots Party and we’d be happy to share what we’ve learned in our three decades of electoral insurgency.

  16. smoke and mirrors are the tool
    employed to maintain the tight gripped rule
    smoke and mirrors designed to fool
    autonomous masses who work and drool
    over the pitiful morsels they are fed

    but coming is the wind of truth
    to blow away the smoke of deception
    and coming too is the hammer of justice
    to shatter the mirrors of illusion

  17. when clouds of mischief shadow the land
    those who dwell in the dark command
    the frightened and confused
    who fear only to lose
    that which has become familiar

    easily led, these innocent ones
    innocent until their fear becomes
    one with the dark lords obsession

    then comes the day
    when those led astray
    must pay with their most prized possession

    so you stand far away
    and witness the fray
    while innocents destroy one another

    gone is the day
    when children could play
    in warmth and light with no bother
    for hatred and fear pervade the land
    and ignorance is the new Universal Mother

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