The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency recently decreed that marijuana has no accepted medical use and should remain classified alongside heroin and cocaine as a dangerous and addictive drug.
The DEA’s decree was issued almost 10 years after supporters of medical marijuana filed a petition with the agency to have marijuana removed from schedule I of the CSA and rescheduled as cannabis in schedule III, IV or V.
Despite a mounting body of research that demonstrates marijuana’s effectiveness in treating certain diseases, like glaucoma and multiple sclerosis, and the side effects of chemotherapy, the DEA ruled “that marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no accepted medical use in the United States, and lacks an acceptable level of safety for use even under medical supervision.” (Read the rest of the ruling here.)”
For a review of over a decade of scientific literature exploring the clinical applications of medical marijuana, click here.
As of May 2011, 16 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes. In those states, crime rates have not only failed to rise, as so many critics of legalization predicted, they have actually decreased; even in densely populated areas like Los Angeles and San Diego.
From an Americans for Safe Access statement:
The denial also comes the same week as the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS) is holding its 21st annual symposium in St. Charles, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. The symposium is sponsored in part by an array of pharmaceutical companies, the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and ElSohly Laboratories, Inc., the federal government’s only licensed source of research-grade cannabis (marijuana) used in therapeutic studies. Currently, several pharmaceutical companies are asking the government to reschedule organically produced THC, the primary compound found in the marijuana plant, so they can sell a generic version of Marinol, which is now made synthetically.
“The government cannot have it both ways, marijuana is either a medicine or it’s not,” said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. “If the government is going to sponsor a conference on medical marijuana, it should show the same deference to the millions of patients across America who simply want access to it.” ASA and its grassroots patient base has been urging President Obama since he took office to develop a comprehensive federal policy that would address medical marijuana as a public health issue.
As Care2′s Amelia T. reports, in a letter sent earlier this week to federal prosecutors, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole wrote that the Obama administration, which generally takes a hands-off approach to prosecuting medical marijuana operations, “never intended to shield such activities from federal enforcement action and prosecution, even where those activities purport to comply with state law.”
This blatant reversal has many afraid that Federal harassment of medical marijuana dispensary owners and patients will resume with new vigor, despite the fact that they are in violation of no state laws.
Despite this sudden and contradictory development, supporters of medical marijuana are optimistic.
“We have foiled the government’s strategy of delay, and we can now go head-to-head on the merits, that marijuana really does have therapeutic value,” Joe Elford told the L.A. Times. Elford is the chief counsel for Americans for Safe Access and the lead counsel on the recently filed lawsuit.
The Times notes that this is the third time that petitions to reclassify pot have failed to be approved. The first, filed in 1972, took 17 years for a ruling. The second was filed in 1995 and denied six years later. Both decisions were appealed, but the courts sided with the federal government.
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