Executive Action

Physician coalition sues to reclassify marijuana

By Jasen T. Davis

Obama, you got served!

A lawsuit filed last May on behalf of Americans for Safe Access, Patients Out of Time and several MMJ patients targets the Barack Obama administration in an effort to reclassify marijuana, which is currently classified by the federal government as a Schedule I substance lacking medicinal value. Reclassifying marijuana to a Schedule III substance (i.e. codeine or the amphetamine-like benzphetamine) would be a huge benefit for doctors and patients.

While patients, doctors and grassroots organizations wait for the current administration to notice them, the DEA continues to go after American citizens living in states with MMJ laws.

Kris Hermes, a media specialist for Americans for Safe Access, provided CULTURE with details about the current case.

Why is this lawsuit so important?

This lawsuit is important to every medical marijuana patient living in America today for several reasons. For too long the federal government has argued against medical science and the popular will of Americans in refusing to recognize marijuana’s therapeutic value.

By reclassifying marijuana, the federal government would allow patients to use a medical-necessity defense if arrested and prosecuted regardless of whether they live in a state that has passed a medical marijuana law. Reclassifying marijuana from its current status as one of society’s most dangerous drugs with no medical value would also stimulate research.

Currently, the federal government stifles therapeutic research as a result of an extremely restrictive approval process and a monopoly on research-grade marijuana.

Why do you think the Obama administration has been dragging its feet so much on this issue?

Even though we are suing the Obama administration, the truth is that it has not acted any differently from numerous previous administrations. For decades, the federal government’s strategy has been to delay, delay, delay.

As an example, the government took 22 years to answer one of the prior rescheduling petitions before denying it. We are simply trying to put a stop to such unnecessary and indefensible delays.

Once the lawsuit is filed, what’s next?

A writ of mandamus based on unreasonable delay was filed on May 23 to force the government to answer our 9-year-old petition. We hope the court will order the government to answer, but that is not a guaranteed outcome. The government can also choose to answer the petition at any time even without being told to do so.

If the Obama administration denies the petition, we will then take the government to court and argue the merits of that denial. That’s when the mountain of medical science showing marijuana’s medical efficacy will be brought to bear.

What is your prediction for how this lawsuit is going to affect government agencies like the FBI and the DEA?

The lawsuit names the DEA and the U.S. Attorney General. So, the Justice Department will be busy figuring out how to defend its years-long stall tactic. The next step in this process is for the government to file a reply to our writ. In the meantime, it’s unclear how this litigation will impact the daily operations of agencies like the DEA.

We certainly hope it results in a de-escalation of the aggressive federal raids we have seen over the past two years, but there is no guarantee that such common sense policies will prevail.







So where did all this Schedule I, Schedule III stuff come from? Blame Tricky Dicky. At the urging of then-President Richard Nixon, Congress enacted the Controlled Substances Act in 1970 in an effort to regulate the spectrum of narcotics, pharmaceuticals and so forth. What the feds consider the “worst” substances are classified as Schedule I (this includes heroin, Ecstasy—and cannabis!). What are considered “less” dangerous substances—such as codeine-laden cough syrup and pyrovalerone, a psychoactive with dangerous side effects—are classified as Schedule V. Is it us or is something not adding up here?


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