Medical Pot Reclassification Appeal Rejected

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on January 24, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Supporters of medical marijuana have been trying to change the perception of pot for years. But they have lost again, this time on appeal in a federal court.

Americans for Safe Access initiated this case in 2011 when they petitioned the Drug Enforcement Administration over marijuana's classification. The drug is listed as a "Schedule I" substance, meaning it has no medical use and a high potential for abuse, at least according to the DEA.

ASA, along with other groups and several individuals, were hoping to change that definition with new evidence. But they couldn't get the court on their side.

The 2011 petition requested that the DEA re-evaluate its position on marijuana and its medical properties, reports the Associated Press.

In support of the petition, ASA cited many peer-reviewed studies. But the DEA rejected the petition, and in response the ASA appealed.

As part of the appeal, ASA again submitted much evidence about marijuana's medical properties. Unfortunately, that wasn't the issue on appeal.

When a lawsuit goes to trial -- or in this case, when a petition comes before an administrative agency -- the issue is proof. Plaintiffs and petitioners have to prove their case to the person who's making the decisions.

But if a case goes to appeal, things change a bit. Instead of proving the facts, the person bringing the appeal must prove that the previous decider abused his or her power.

That was something ASA couldn't prove in this appeal. Judge Harry T. Edwards noted the issue wasn't medical evidence of marijuana's abilities. Instead, it was whether the DEA's decision was "arbitrary and capricious."

Of that, there was not enough evidence.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals judge, ruling for the majority, noted that there wasn't enough scientific evidence of effectiveness to show that the DEA made an unfair decision, according to Reuters.

As a result, the court couldn't overturn what the DEA originally decided.

The reaffirmation of marijuana as a Schedule I substance comes just after the legalization of recreational pot use in Colorado and Washington. But since it remains illegal under federal law, use it at your own risk.

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