US Appeals Court Hears Case on Marijuana Sched I Classification

In front of a three-judge Court of Appeals panel, attorneys argued the federal government, through the DEA, failed to take into consideration hard evidence and science when choosing to classify marijuana as a Schedule I substance. They are arguing that pot be reclassified as having some medical use, what would be a big step towards ending the war against voter-backed medical marijuana programs and laying the groundwork for other such laws in states that have yet to pass them.

US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit

According to the Huffington Post, attorney Joseph Elford, arguing on behalf of Americans for Safe Access, said the DEA “acted arbitrarily and capriciously” when classifying marijuana with other highly dangerous drugs. Currently, it’s listed in the Schedule I classification—meaning it is dangerous, has a high risk of addiction, and has no medical use. But, as Elford argued, there are “200 well-controlled studies” showing proven medical uses of the plant.

It’s this Schedule I designation that allows the federal government to raid medical marijuana dispensaries. Though voters in states like California have legalized medical marijuana, the federal government doesn’t recognize “any legitimate medical use” of the plant and these dispensaries and medical marijuana users, therefore, are in violation of federal law.

In response, the attorney for the DOJ, Lena Watkins, said the DEA found “no substantial evidence” of legitimate medical use. They say those studies offered by Elford don’t meet the standards of FDA trials. The results from studies that have been approved by the feds are still pending.

Elford argued that the federal government is effectively stalling the federally approved research, that they are playing a game of “gotcha” in order to continue their war against marijuana.

In a brief filed with the court before the proceedings, Watkins cited the “extensive illicit domestic and international trafficking of marijuana as evidence of the widespread use and abuse,” of it, according to McClatchy. Apparently, she doesn’t realize that it’s the ineffective Drug War creating the illicit drug trade, not crazed marijuana addicts.

Will the court order the classification changed? It’s unlikely. However, they could order the DEA to consider more data. Also, if appealed from this level, the issue could be taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, something that could make or break the reclassification issue with finality.


About David Matson

David writes about criminal justice issues.
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