Agency Lights Up Legal Battle By Declaring Pot Lacks ‘Accepted Medical Use’

Despite the legalization of medical marijuana in 16 states and the District of Columbia, the federal government has ruled that cannabis has no accepted medical use and should remain classified, like heroin, as a highly dangerous drug.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration issued its decision almost nine years after medical marijuana advocates asked the government to reclassify cannabis based on a growing body of research demonstrating its effectiveness in treating diseases such as glaucoma and multiple sclerosis.

Supporters of medical marijuana recently asked the U.S. Court of Appeals to force the administration to respond to their petition. While critical of the DEA’s new ruling, they were delighted that they now have a decision they can appeal to the federal courts.

“We have foiled the government’s strategy of delay, and we can now go head-to-head on the merits,” said Joe Elford, the chief counsel for Americans for Safe Access and the lead attorney on the lawsuit.

However, similar legal efforts to permit the medical use of marijuana have failed twice before, after the federal government turned down petitions to reclassify the drug in 1972 and again in 1995.

Elford said he was not surprised by the DEA decision, which comes after the Obama administration announced it would not tolerate large-scale commercial marijuana cultivation. “It is clearly motivated by a political decision that is anti-marijuana,” he said. 

In a June 21 letter to the organizations that filed the latest petition, DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart said she rejected the request because marijuana has “a high potential for abuse” and lacks any “currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” She added that  marijuana’s chemistry is not known and adequate studies have not been done on its usefulness or safety.

“At this time,” she said, “the known risks of marijuana use have not been outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.”

Nevertheless, researchers continue to identify medical benefits well beyond the drug’s often-cited capacity to stimulate the appetite of patients on chemotherapy.

Dr. Igor Grant, a neuropsychiatrist and the director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at UC San Diego, said clinical trials show that marijuana helps with neuropathic pain and muscle spasticity, or tension.

He said the federal government’s position discourages scientists from pursuing research needed to test the drug’s medical effectiveness. “We’re trapped in kind of a vicious cycle here,” he said.  “It’s always a danger if the government acts on certain kinds of persuasions or beliefs rather than evidence.”

Time noted that the DEA position may be at odds with the views of other government experts. As far back as 1999, the Institute of Medicine, a the branch of the National Academy of Sciences that evaluates complex medical questions for Congress, said that “scientific data indicate the potential therapeutic value of cannabinoid drugs.” It cited the potential for pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, along with appetite stimulation.

Since then, experts have seen even greater potential for marijuana-derived drugs. They have been found to kill breast cancer cells, fight liver cancer and even possibly help in combating Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

Meanwhile, another government agency, the Food and Drug Administration, is investigating whether Sativex, a marijuana-derived drug, is safe and effective, and merits approval for medical use.



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5 comments to “Agency Lights Up Legal Battle By Declaring Pot Lacks ‘Accepted Medical Use’”

  1. Joan Wilson taught me much about marijuana health benefits. It’s nice to see marijuana doctors represent real information instead of the bold faced lies that are spouted on behalf of large corporate interests. But what ticks me off, is that it’s the citizens money being used to put citizens in jail, and the citizens money that protects the large corporate interests. If only the cops would realize they are being used as pawns in a chess game that doesn’t benefit them, or their families, but rather the corporations that don’t give two hoots about them either.

    It would also seem that the policies with sativex and marinol would fall under the “unfair trade practices acts.”

  2. David Camp

    A year ago on YouTube channel DMTVLiFiChannel, using the techniques of deception management I indicated that the Atty. Gen. was opposing Pres. Obama’s policy concerning medical marijuana raids and that the President would in fact “come in line with their policies” against the worlds presses claiming “US attorney general Eric Holder: ending medical marijuana raids now US policy”

    While it was unveiled on that rather tongue and cheek presentation, the reasons were not. As stated money is no doubt a large part. But I suspect there are far more dire issues at hand. We have all the liberties of citizens – unless you are a criminal. Making popular activities a criminal act promotes greater govt control over a larger segment of the population, promotes obedience rather than free thinking, supports alcohol production and so much more. This is not an issue of rationale of the subject matter, but a tool to an end (or more than one).

  3. Don

    I find it amazing that the government claims there has not been enough testing of cannabis, (which they restrict), and claim it has no medicinal merit, and yet all the while the department of Health and Human Services holds US patent # 6630507 (on THC) which states that THC is worthwhile as a neuroprotectant against several diseases. Perhaps they just want to license that technology to their friends in big pharma so more money can be made that way, while preserving the right to criminalize and imprison folks who take matters into their own hands. Where’s the transparency on this issue? What is the real issue? Undoubtedly money; the jobs program that has been expanded for law enforcement and incarceration industries, and the unwillingness to admit when something has gone very wrong. How can PEOPLE continue to justify a penalty far worse than the imagined, (victimless) offense? This is all a medical, (not a criminal), issue, and it’s about time we start treating it as one!

  4. Jim Jones

    Of course the DEA thinks cannabis is a hard drug. As Obama & congress wrestle with budget cuts, I’m sure the DEA is afraid of losing the billions of dollars we pi$$ away every day on the phony “war on drugs”. They want to protect their overly inflated budget.

  5. Seabourne

    Tell your Congressional Representatives –
    It is time to “Change the Schedule of Cannabis, Cannabis Laws, and Drug Czar Laws”
    Read and Sign the petition at

    After you sign the petition, email your friendlies, share on facebook, or twitter from the petition page. If you have a website grab the widget so your visitors can sign it without leaving your website.
    This petition uses laws passed by Congress to point out that by their laws, the laws must change.

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