April 6, 2016

Decades late, DEA to reconsider status of marijuana

Press Herald, Me - In a lengthy memo to lawmakers, the Drug Enforcement Administration said it hopes to decide whether to change the federal status of marijuana “in the first half of 2016.”

First set in 1970, marijuana’s classification under the Controlled Substances Act has become increasingly out of step with scientific research, public opinion, medical use and state law. Citing marijuana’s potentially significant therapeutic potential for a number of serious ailments, including chronic pain and epilepsy, organizations such as the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have called on the DEA to change the drug’s scheduling status.


Anonymous said...

about time better late than never

KZeese said...

Yes, it finally looks like the DEA may be taking the issue of rescheduling marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act seriously. This is an issue activists have been urging the DEA to seriously consider since 1972. When it was first placed in Schedule I it was supposed to be a temporary classification but with DEA intransigence and anti-marijuana bias it has remained mis-scheduled for more than 40 years.

In 1988 the chief administrative law judge of the DEA, Francis L. Young, ruled that marijuana should be rescheduled because it had an accepted medical use currently in treatment in the United States and did not have a high potential for abuse. You can read his decision here: https://www.erowid.org/plants/cannabis/cannabis_law1-1.shtml

I was the attorney for NORML in that case seeking rescheduling. It was a three year process after we finally got them into court (which took about 15 years). The original petition was filed by NORML in 1972. The Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics, headed by the first legal medical marijuana patient in the country, Robert Randall, and his partner Alice O’Leary, joined the petition and litigated the issue with us. The administrative law judge for the DEA ruled completely in our favor but the administrator of the DEA, appointed by President George H.W. Bush, refused to follow his ruling. We sued three times in the US Court of Appeals to reverse him — won the first two where the court ordered the DEA to reconsider, lost the third when the Court just seemed to give up trying to get the DEA to do the right thing.

Judge Young concluded his decision writing “The evidence in this record clearly shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision. 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.”

It is time for the DEA to stop being arbitrary and capricious and make the scheduling of marijuana consistent with reality. Before President Obama leaves office marijuana should be removed from the Controlled Substances Act; at a minimum marijuana should be placed in Schedule II of the CSA.