(NaturalNews) Last month, after patient advocates had filed a lawsuit to compel the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to answer a 9-year-old petition to reclassify cannabis (medical marijuana), it begrudgingly complied. The government's answer to the petition filed in 2002 by the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) was, of course, "denied." The Obama Administration has made its position clear, however wrongheaded, that cannabis is a dangerous drug with no medical value. While disappointing, the decision to ignore the science and keep a worn-out, decades-old position merely maintains the status quo.
The opportunity in the CRC petition denial, however, is that patient advocates have stymied the federal government's strategy of delay. With this official denial, patients, doctors, scientists, advocates, and elected officials can now appeal to correct a harmful public health policy that would deny medical cannabis to millions of Americans who could benefit from it. Less than two weeks after the denial was posted to the Federal Register, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's largest medical cannabis advocacy group and one of the original petitioners (as part of the CRC), did just that. ASA filed a notice of appeal in the D.C. Circuit on July 21st and will file its opening brief within the next couple of months.
Now the issue heats up in federal court. The D.C. Circuit will be asked to review the evidence and make a determination on whether cannabis should remain in Schedule I, the highest category of controlled substances. Because this issue is so political and because so much money rides on the aggressive enforcement of federal marijuana laws, the Obama Administration has been put in the difficult position of defending an indefensible policy. The evidence behind the therapeutic value of cannabis, whether clinical or anecdotal, is overwhelming. It was overwhelming in 2002, when the CRC petition was filed, and it's more overwhelming today.
"By ignoring the wealth of scientific evidence that shows the medical efficacy of cannabis, the Obama Administration is playing politics at the expense of sick and dying Americans," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, who filed appeal. "For the first time in more than 15 years we will be able to present evidence in court to challenge the government's flawed position on cannabis."
Patient advocates argue that by failing to reclassify cannabis, the federal government has stifled meaningful research into a wide array of therapeutic uses, such as pain relief, appetite stimulation, nausea suppression, and spasticity control among many others. In 1988, the DEA ignored the ruling of its own Administrative Law Judge Francis Young who said that, "Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man."
Since the CRC petition was filed, an even greater number of studies have been published showing the medical benefits of cannabis for illnesses such as neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer's. Recent studies even show that cannabis may inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Earlier this year, the National Cancer Institute, a division of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, added cannabis to its list of Complementary Alternative Medicines, pointing out that it's been used therapeutically for millennia.
Ironically, less than a year ago, in December 2010 the Obama Administration issued a memorandum on "the preservation and promotion of scientific integrity" of the executive branch. Yet, the application of such integrity appears to be applied selectively and not with regard to cannabis. "With science on our side, we will put an end to the government's political posturing," continued Elford, "and force the Obama Administration to adhere to its own stated policy of emphasizing science over politics."
When the latest petition was filed by the CRC in 2002, eight states had adopted laws recognizing and decriminalizing the medical use of cannabis. Today, sixteen states and the nation's capitol have passed medical cannabis laws with many more states considering similar legislative proposals.