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D.C. Circuit Denies Medical Marijuana Reclassification Challenge, Advocates Vow To Appeal


Gavel marijuana leafAmericans for Safe Access will seek En Banc review, continue fight to develop public health policy

Washington, DC — The United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a ruling today in the medical marijuana reclassification case, Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration. In a 2-1 decision, the Court granted standing in the case — the right to bring a claim against the federal government — but denied the legal challenge on the merits, agreeing with the government’s assertion that “adequate and well-controlled studies” on the medical efficacy of marijuana do not exist.

“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,” said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country’s leading medical marijuana advocacy organization, which appealed the denial of the rescheduling petition in January of last year. “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.'”

ASA intends to seek En Banc review by the full D.C. Circuit and,necessary, the organization will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. ASA intends to argue that the Obama Administration has acted arbitrarily and capriciously by using continually changing standards of “medical efficacy” in order to maintain marijuana as a Schedule I substance, a dangerous drug with no medical value. The government now contends that Stage II and III clinical trials are necessary to show efficacy, while ASA has consistently argued that the more than 200 peer-reviewed studies cited in the legal briefs adequately meet this standard.

In 2002, the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis, made up of several individuals and organizations including ASA, filed a petition to reclassify marijuana for medical use. That petition was denied in July 2011, after ASA sued the Obama Administration for unreasonable delaying the answer. The appeal to the D.C. Circuit was the first time in nearly 20 years that a federal court has reviewed the issue of whether adequate scientific evidence exists to reclassify marijuana.

“The Obama Administration’s legal efforts will keep marijuana out of reach for millions of qualified patients who would benefit from its use,” continued Elford. “It’s time for President Obama to change his harmful policy with regard to medical marijuana and treat this as a public health issue, something entirely within the capability and authority of the executive office.”

Patient advocates claim that marijuana is treated unlike any other controlled substance and that politics have dominated over medical science on this issue. Advocates point to a research approval process for marijuana, controlled by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which is unique, overly rigorous, and hinders meaningful therapeutic research. ASA argues 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.”

ASA will continue to put pressure on the Obama Administration, but will also be lobbying Members of Congress to reclassify marijuana for medical use. A new comprehensive public health bill on medical marijuana is expected to be introduced soon in Congress, and ASA is holding a national conference in February to support its passage.

Further information:
Today’s D.C. Circuit decision: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/DC_Circuit_Ruling_ASA_v_DEA.pdf
ASA appeal brief: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/CRC_Appeal.pdf
CRC rescheduling petition: http://www.drugscience.org/PDF/Petition_Final_2002.pdf

Press Release From Americans for Safe Access. With over 50,000 active members in all 50 states, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. ASA works to overcome political and legal barriers by creating policies that improve access to medical cannabis for patients and researchers through legislation, education, litigation, grassroots actions, advocacy and services for patients and the caregivers.


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    I only discovered two years ago that I have an adrenal adenoma, but I have lived for 20 years with this disease. No blood pressure medications kept my blood pressure down, but cannabis has. The doctors did not believe me, until I found a study on pubmed that found that endocannabinoids (which marijuana mimics), lower levels of the hormone aldosterone, reducing blood pressure.

    A description of this study can be found here:


    I put this paper together to let everyone know about how beneficial medical marijuana can be. Without it, my blood pressure quickly rises to 200/130, and no blood pressure medications will bring it down. It literally saves my life everyday, and this study explains why.

  2. The more this gets aired out in court the more “arbitrary and capricious” the DEA and American drug policy will be regarded in the international arena. Conjecture is the first word that comes to mind regarding the DEA reasoning for scheduling cannabis. Foreign nations will balk at entering any agreement with the USA regarding cannabis drug policy.

    This is exactly the course that needs to be taken with the DEA and the Controlled Substances Act. I am supportive of ASA and others that are challenging the federal government’s far reaching policy on personal conduct and access to natural medicinal substances, and thank them for their efforts.

    Remember that this needs to go to the Supreme Court, lower court rulings will not have the impact the Supreme Court will have. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the DEA, then they will look foolish in the global court of opinion.

    Lastly, there is nothing that can stop cannabis use and eventual legalization… Public opinion will continue to shift in favor of cannabis. The DEA is the largest enforcement arm on the planet and they have had little impact on the medicinal and illicit global cannabis trade.

  3. Oh and for all of you that think that because of the dollar amount of potential taxes involved that these hypocrites in the other Washington would somehow…..relent on their assault on some drugs, just forget about that and then ask yourself, why would that impress people who on a whim can print up dollars out of thin air in any amount they want?? Hint: it doesn’t….

  4. The court do not represent the people rights, but their own personal biased opinion as they’re against the concept of medical marijuana. The court has not really prove that marijuana is dangerous & no medical qualities that has overwhelmed evidents of medical benefits w/o serious side effects. The court has made mockery of justice, they don’t see or know the different schedule of drugs properly. The judgement was based on what they think faulty idea. People have been smoking marijuana w/o supervision for decades responsiblity w/o ill effect.

  5. Inslee encouraged by marijuana talk with Attorney General Holder

    Gov. Jay Inslee (of Washington state) said his conversation with Attorney General Eric Holder was “very satisfying” and a “confidence-builder” about the state’s ability to move forward implementing legal marijuana.

    By Bob Young

    Seattle Times staff reporter

    Gov. Jay Inslee said his conversation Tuesday with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder convinced him Washington state should continue making rules for a legal marijuana industry as mandated by voter-approved Initiative 502.

    Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson met with Holder because of the conflict between federal law, which bans all marijuana, and the state’s law, which makes possession of an ounce of pot legal for those 21 and older.

    Inslee said the 45-minute conversation was “very satisfying” and a “confidence-builder” about the state’s ability to move forward implementing legal marijuana. “We went in thinking we should continue with rule-making and nothing I heard should dissuade us,” Inslee said.

    At the same time, he stressed that Holder said nothing about the federal government’s intentions and whether it would crack down on Washington state or look the other way.

    Inslee said he did not press Holder for a clearer signal, or position, because he considered their talk a preliminary meeting, with more discussions to follow.

    Noting that the state is moving ahead with rule-making, Ferguson said he emphasized that the state would like answers soon. “We made it very clear that while we’re moving forward, some deadlines are coming up soon. I think Attorney General Holder understood that we’d need guidance in months to come,” Ferguson said.

    Inslee said several times the state would provide Holder with details about how it would prevent its legal marijuana from leaking into other states.

    “We spent some time talking about how the initiative would work, how the regulatory process would work. He listened with great interest, and I appreciated that,” Inslee said.

    The law will be implemented by the state’s Liquor Control Board, which on Tuesday held the first of six meetings planned to take public comment about the law. The second meeting will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at Seattle City Hall.

    The governor added that Holder’s questions show he is “going to be fully attentive” to Washington’s evolving law. Inslee said it’s no surprise that Holder would take his time to fully evaluate the implementation of I-502.

    In case the federal government decides to oppose the law, Ferguson has a team of lawyers in his office preparing to make the best legal case for upholding I-502.

    “I said we want to avoid a legal fight,” Ferguson recounted during a news conference after the meeting with Holder. “We want to find a pathway forward. But if it comes to it, the Washington Attorney General’s Office will be prepared for a legal fight.”

    President Obama has said recreational pot smoking in Colorado and Washington, the two states that have legalized it, is not a major concern for his administration.

    “We’ve got bigger fish to fry,” Obama said in an interview with ABC News last month. “It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal.”

    Meanwhile, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C., circuit ruled Tuesday that medical marijuana should not be reclassified from its status as a federal Schedule I dangerous drug with no medical value.

    In a 2-1 decision, the appeals court agreed with the government’s contention that adequate and well-controlled studies on marijuana’s medical qualities do not exist.

    Advocates disagree and vowed to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

  6. Burlwood Barry on

    F#ck the feds. They will be the last to know the truth, because their heads are in the sand. *puff* *puff* *pass* till I die

  7. But yet medical marijuana is ok for DC area to use for medicinal uses. I have no faith in our justice system anymore, I feel it is all politics instead of the truth. In this case we will always be guilty, guilty. This is wrong and I’m totally disappointed in the DC Circuit Judges.

  8. Its the same old circular argument; You can’t study the medical effects of marijuana because it is illegal, therefore “adequate and well-controlled studies” do not exist.
    Now it will take another 20 years for the Supreme Court to hear the case.

    This case has many parallels to the slavery issue. The federal courts would not rule against slavery. It took a constitutional amendment to change their minds. The same logic applies to the 18th and 21st amendments. (alcohol)

    Yes, this is a retarded ruling, but a retarded ruling is a kind of victory for the good side.

  9. Ricky Willingham on

    These decisions have absolutely nothing to do with the well being of citizens, and everything to do with money and control. It’s a sad fact that the administrations that were put into place to protect the citizens have become bloated bureaucracies (FDA, USDA, DEA, ect.) aligned with corporations (Pharma, Private Prisons, ect.) that could care a less about America or it’s citizens. Our greatest enemy is within. Although it seems just on the horizon, I’ve been chasing the end of that rainbow for half a century, and I’m not very confident that I will ever be able to sit in my yard and enjoy a legal smoke before I die. My hope is that my grandson will be able to, and on that day he will sit there and look upon one of those cherry trees I have planted, and feel the freedom I never experienced.

  10. They are making the people fight this out in court.NO matter how much money is wasted ,

    Wait for the appeal , stall some more .

  11. DavidTheExpert on

    How could they look at all of the SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE, and just say “fuck that, we don’t believe it??”

    I knew that the government was lying to us before, but now it’s just SO GOD DAMN BLATANT. They don’t even care that we know that they’re lying. They looked at all of the scientific fact and said “no, we like things the way they are, so scientific fact just doesn’t matter.”

  12. Is anyone surprised by this? I was hoping for a postitve outcome but knew this was likely. ASA is pushing this very timely and important topic and I trust they will be successful. Politicians are getting an earfull all across the country and medical marijuana is supported by the majority of Americans.

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