Medical Marijuana Supporters Lose in Court


In what was going to open the marijuana legalization question wide open at the federal level, a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ended up shutting the door in advocates’ faces instead. The question before the court was whether the DEA had properly scheduled marijuana as an addictive drug with no medical benefits.

When drugs are evaluated by the DEA, they are ranked and put into a system of schedules. This classification is then used to determine the legal consequences of dispensing or using the drug in question. For example, LSD has no proven medical use and falls, along with heroin, into Schedule I, the most restrictive. Vicodin, a commonly prescribed narcotic, is in Schedule III. Marijuana is currently classed as Schedule I, meaning it is illegal to possess or use for medical reasons.

Enough scientific proof to reschedule marijuana?

Advocates who brought the lawsuit to the DC District Court alleged there was enough science to show that marijuana is not addictive and does have medicinal properties. They sought to force the DEA to reconsider its classification for cannabis. To prove their case, they submitted more than 200 scientific papers and other materials, including a few studies performed by the U.S. government itself.

However, the court decided that the DEA’s position — there is not yet good evidence that marijuana is not addictive and does have positive medical benefits — was appropriate. The court, in effect, ruled the DEA was doing its job.

More difficult for future lawsuits

A second matter addressed by the court is whether or not the lawsuit itself had merit. To bring an action, the complaining party has to show they have been harmed. One judge determined that there was no harm to the plaintiffs, either financially or by not having access to marijuana to treat their medical conditions. This part of the ruling will make it harder to bring similar actions before other federal courts.

Photo by John Nyboer


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