Medical marijuana advocates appeal feds’ ruling

Medical marijuana advocates asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia today to overturn the Drug Enforcement Administration’s decision to keep the cannabis on its list of most-restricted drugs.

The DEA denied advocates’ petition – filed in 2002 by the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis – two weeks ago. That means the drug, at least for now, remains on Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act, which lists drugs deemed to have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety under medical supervision.

Joe Elford, chief counsel for the Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access, filed the notice of appeal today, and will file a brief in the next few weeks.

“By ignoring the wealth of scientific evidence that clearly shows the therapeutic value of marijuana, the Obama Administration is playing politics at the expense of sick and dying Americans,” Elford said in a news release. “For the first time in more than 15 years we will be able to present evidence in court to challenge the government’s flawed position on medical marijuana.”

Advocates argue the federal government’s refusal to reclassify marijuana has stifled meaningful research into therapeutic uses such as pain relief, appetite stimulation, nausea suppression, and spasticity control, among others.

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws allowing medical use of marijuana, and the National Cancer Institute – part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – earlier this year added cannabis to its list of complementary alternative medicines. And the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians both have urged the federal government to review marijuana’s status as a Schedule I substance.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.