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Supreme Court Declines to Hear Appeal to Reclassify Marijuana

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal led by the Americans for Safe Access that sought the reclassification of marijuana and remove it from DEA’s Schedule I list of drugs under the Controlled Substance Act.

Marijuana advocacy groups had sought a review of a DC Circuit Court of Appeals decision that upheld DEA’s ruling that such change in classification of marijuana can be done only if the FDA recognized marijuana for acceptable medical use.

In spite of the growing body of research supporting the medicinal effects and benefits of marijuana, the federal government continues to classify marijuana under Schedule I along with drugs like Heroin, MDMA and LSD. The DEA keeps to its position that marijuana continues to be a dangerous drug even though there is widespread use of medical marijuana across the world and 20 states of the USA.

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In the order that was appealed against, the DC Circuit had observed that a 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine, “does indeed suggest that marijuana might have medical benefits.” However, the court also concluded that DEA had interpreted the report reasonably and further studies were needed before reclassification of marijuana. In the words of the DC Circuit, “such studies do not exist.”

The Supreme Court is generally reluctant to interfere with administrative and lower court orders unless things are sufficiently high-profile, and the refusal to hear the appeal was no surprise.

Even though Americans for Safe Access requested the Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana in 2002, the agency took nine years to reject that request. In 2011, the DEA said that marijuana’s medical efficacy was yet unproved given that there were no large-scale studies involving large numbers of patients. Given that it is DEA’s own stand on marijuana that prevents such large-scale studies from taking place, the rationale for not declassifying marijuana seems little more than stubborn opposition rather than unbiased assessment.

Marijuana image source: Wikimedia commons

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