DC CIRCUIT TO HEAR ARGUMENTS IN CANNABIS RESCHEDULING APPEAL
Americans for Safe Access
Monthly Activist Newsletter
AUGUST 2012 Volume 7, Issue 8
Advocates to Face Off with Obama
Administration in Federal Court
D.C. Circuit to hear arguments in appeal of cannabis rescheduling
The scientific evidence on medical cannabis will be considered by a federal appeals court this fall as the result of a lawsuit that could force the government to change its policies.
ASA’s challenge to the government’s denial of a rescheduling petition has been granted a hearing by the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Oral arguments in Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration, scheduled for October 16 at 9:30am, will be the first opportunity in decades for a federal court to hear the full scope of scientific evidence on the therapeutic applications of cannabis.
ASA had filed suit to force government action on the petition, setting the stage for next October’s court hearing. The DEA is the final arbiter on petitions to reclassify controlled substances, but other agencies are also involved in the review process.
“Medical cannabis patients will finally get a chance to debunk politically motivated decision-making with scientific facts in open court,” said Joe Elford, ASA’s Chief Counsel. “Much is at stake – our country’s scientific integrity, the medical needs of millions of patients, and an escalating conflict between the federal government and state health programs.”
The U.S. federal government classifies cannabis as a highly dangerous drug with no medical uses, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. After nearly a decade of delay, the DEA last July rejected the petition brought by the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC), of which ASA is a member.
ASA filed its appeal of the DEA’s rescheduling denial in January. ASA’s appeal argues that cannabis is treated unlike any other controlled substance in that rescheduling petitions are encumbered by political considerations, and medical research on cannabis in the US is subjected to a unique and overly rigorous approval process.
ASA’s brief to the court says the federal government has acted arbitrarily and capriciously and should not be allowed “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 is urging the court to “require the DEA to analyze the scientific data evenhandedly,” and order “a hearing and findings based on the scientific record.”
Hearing the case in Washington, D.C. are Senior Circuit Judge Harry T. Edwards and Circuit Judges Karen LeCraft Henderson and Merrick B. Garland.
Currently federal rules of evidence prevent medical cannabis defendants from presenting any medical facts or a state law defense in federal court. If the rescheduling lawsuit is successful and cannabis is reclassified consistent with the scientific consensus on its safety and efficacy, federal defendants will have a basis for a medical necessity defense.
Under the Obama Administration, federal interference has escalated beyond raids and prosecutions of providers and patients to threats against state and local officials responsible for implementing the programs. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have established medical cannabis programs to provide access for patients whose doctors recommend it for treatment.
D.C. Circuit announcement of oral arguments
ASA appeal brief
DEA denial of CRC petition
CRC rescheduling petition