Marijuana will continue to be considered a highly dangerous drug under federal law with no accepted medical uses, after a U.S. appeals court Tuesday refused to order a change in the government’s 40-year-old drug classification schedule.
The decision keeps in place an odd legal split over marijuana, a drug deemed to be as dangerous as heroin and worse than methamphetamine by federal authorities, but one that has been legalized for medical use by voters or legislators in 20 states and the District of Columbia.
A marijuana advocacy group went to court, arguing that federal officials had a duty to reexamine the medical evidence and reclassify marijuana as a drug that has clear benefits for those who are suffering and in pain. Joe Elford, counsel for Americans for Safe Access, said federal drug officials had a bias against marijuana that caused them to ignore its benefits and to exaggerate its dangers.
But three judges said they had a duty to defer to the judgment of federal health experts who had concluded they needed more evidence before reclassifying marijuana.
“To establish accepted medical use, the effectiveness of a drug must be established in well-controlled, well-designed, well-conducted and well-documented scientific studies [with]a large number of patients. To date, such studies have not been performed,” the Drug Enforcement Administration said in defense of its decision. The passage was quoted in Tuesday’s opinion.
Judge Harry Edwards, writing for the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, said the judges did not dispute that “marijuana could have some medical benefits.” Instead, he said, they were not willing to overrule the DEA because they had not seen large “well-controlled studies” that proved the medical value of marijuana.
“We’re disappointed, but not surprised,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access. She said more than 1 million patients used marijuana as medicine across the nation.
– Read the entire article at Los Angeles Times.