(MintPress) – On March 22, the medical marijuana patient advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), filed a petition with the federal court of appeals, hoping to reclassify marijuana for medical use. Currently marijuana is recognized federally as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning that among other things, the U.S. federal government does not recognize any […]
(MintPress) – On March 22, the medical marijuana patient advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), filed a petition with the federal court of appeals, hoping to reclassify marijuana for medical use.
Currently marijuana is recognized federally as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning that among other things, the U.S. federal government does not recognize any medical benefit of the drug. Other examples of Schedule 1 drugs include heroin, LSD, PCP and crack cocaine.
According to a press release from the ASA, the appeal was the first time in about 20 years that a U.S. federal court has reviewed the issue of whether or not there is adequate scientific evidence to reclassify marijuana for medical use.
The ASA’s appeal came after the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled against the ASA’s case against the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) earlier this year in January.
In a 2-1 decision, the court ruled that medical marijuana should not be reclassified, reasoning that while the group did have the right to bring a claim against the federal government, the ASA did not present enough “adequate and well-controlled” studies examining the medical benefits of marijuana.
After the court’s decision earlier this year, Joe Elford, chief counsel with ASA, said that “to deny that sufficient evidence is lacking on the medical efficacy of marijuana is to ignore a mountain of well-documented studies that conclude otherwise. The Court has unfortunately agreed with the Obama administration’s unreasonably raised bar on what qualifies as an ‘adequate and well-controlled’ study, thereby continuing their game of ‘Gotcha.'”
In a press release, the ASA reported that the group cited more than 200 peer-reviewed studies in its appeal, but the D.C. Circuit maintained that plaintiffs must produce evidence from Phase II and Phase III clinical trials to show marijuana’s medical efficacy. Usually Phase II and III are for companies trying to bring a new drug to market, and involve testing a drug’s effectiveness and safety on a large group of participants.
Long battle to reclassify marijuana
This wasn’t the first time a group has challenged the DEA to reclassify marijuana for medical use.
In 2002, the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis, a group comprised of several pro-legalization organizations including ASA, filed a petition to reclassify marijuana for medical use. The petition was denied by the DEA in July 2011, after the ASA filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration for “unreasonably delaying the answer.”
“The Obama Administration’s legal efforts are keeping marijuana out of reach for millions of qualified patients who would benefit from its use,” said Elford. “It’s time for President Obama or Congress to change our country’s harmful federal policy on medical marijuana and treat its use as a public health issue.”
Many medical marijuana advocates say that marijuana is treated unlike any other controlled substance because political interests have dominated the discussion of the drug’s use.
The ASA argued in its appeal brief that the DEA has no “license to apply different criteria to marijuana than to other drugs, ignore critical scientific data, misrepresent social science research, or rely upon unsubstantiated assumptions, as the DEA has done in this case.”
Recent national polls have found Americans’ support for the legalization of medical marijuana is around 80 percent. Medical marijuana is currently legal in 18 states, plus Washington, D.C., and about nine other states have legislation pending to either legalize medical marijuana or expand current legalization laws.