Medical Marijuana Up For Debate in Federal Court

The disconnect between state laws allowing for the use of medicinal marijuana and federal anti-drug enforcement efforts may be evolving.

As ThinkProgress reports, for the first time since 1994 a federal court will consider the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) classification of marijuana as a dangerous drug with no medical value. The lawsuit, which is now a decade old, was brought by Americans for Safe Access and argues the science behind marijuana’s therapeutic properties.

Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule 1 substance with a “high potential for abuse,” placing it alongside other narcotics such as heroin and cocaine.

Oral arguments on the ASA case will be heard on October 16th. Since the original petition was filed in 2002 the scientific evidence to support declassifying marijuana has expanded at least two-fold, especially in the treatment of diseases like multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and cancer. In 2011, the National Cancer Institute listed cannabis as a complementary and alternative medicine, noting that it has been used as medicine for thousands of years. Even Congress seems prepared to protect medical marijuana possession.

Should ASA succeed and the court find the DEA’s refusal to reclassify marijuana as “arbitrary and capricious” that will force the Obama administration to re-evaluate and adjust federal enforcement efforts. Which, similar to their tactics in same sex marriage, may be exactly what they are looking for. When Attorney General Eric Holder first took over at the Department of Justice he said that medical marijuana prosecutions would fall low on the list of DOJ priorities. Yet busts and prosecutions have continued, leading many to question the sincerity of the statements.

Cover from the court would provide DOJ exactly what it needs to ease up on enforcing federal law, expand the ability of researchers to conduct more science to prove the benefits of medicinal marijuana use and ease tensions between federal and local law enforcement. It may not be fast and it may not be sexy, but this is how policy evolves.

Related Stories:

How Conscientious Consumerism Could Re-shape the Marijuana Industry

Is President Obama Evolving On Medical Marijuana?

Photo from it was 3 a.m. via flickr.


.2 years ago

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Kimberley Smith
Kimberly Smith4 years ago

Iam trying get legalized in Memphis

Terri C.
Terri Valko4 years ago

If it werent for marijuana. I probably wouldnt be here. It helps my stomach. Has helped with cancer twice. And helps me sleep.If i had not done that I would have ended it long before now. It helps me live.with contstant pain

Terri C.
Terri Valko4 years ago

They need to talk to me. They are taking away my morphin because I smoke. Im in Des Moines,Iowa. my pain dr is being charged with murder Baldi just trie to help. Help legalize it here

Knut Franckenstein
Knut F5 years ago

Too many governments are still trying to keep citizens on a short leash - and what's all behind it? Lacking knowledge and ignorance combined with greed! Rather sad - considering that we are not living in medieval times any more!
Legalize it, it's just a plant which is good for many other purposes including industries!

Gary Ansorge
Gary Ansorge5 years ago

If you want to know the political origins of pot prohibition, check out my buddy Jack Herers book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes.

Mark M.
Mark Modine5 years ago

NatGeo is owned by Fox/Murdoch.

How can anyone believe anything they say anymore?

Industry and government have been lying about marijuana for too long.

Jim G.
Jim G.5 years ago

October 16th is such as important date now, hoping the case actually gets heard. It is the straw that will break prohibition's back. Logic, science, the advance in communications with the internet have all combined to expose the fallacy behind this injustice perpetrated against the American people. Of course this herb has medicinal qualities, and any attempt at abuse results in more healthful chemicals supplementing your own cannabinoid production. Following my brain cancer, surgery, chemo and radiation, my brain can't tolerate narcotics. Any opiate narcotic is like an allergen to me, and causes a seizure. I use cannabis for its anti-seizure qualities, and oh yeah, something is preventing a recurrence of my glioblastoma multiforme and I think we both know what that is. I've turned prognosis with a 16 month median life expectancy into a 7 year survival thanks to cannabis. It is such a blessing to have this simple plant available from my garden, giving me life. Medicine? Of course it is. Let's get this prohibitive nanny government back on the right track and taking cannabis off Schedule 1 is a good first step. Good luck to us all.

Welbec Hamm
Welbec Hamm5 years ago

Ed G., where do your 70% BS figures come from. Not a single case of marijauna induced lung cancer has yet been documented. Only the liars at the DEA make such baseless claims. Marijuana use goes back over 15,000 years from Ozy in the Pyreens to finds in Mongolian burial sites. Every one of us humans has receptors in our brains for cannabis because of this mutual evolution. PBS has produced a very good documentary about 4 plants that have evolved with man, cannabis, corn, potatoes, and tulips. That isn't even the most convincing reason to end this anti marijuan nonsence, Racism is. With the "Drug War" signed into effect by Nixon in 1974, even after being told that law enforcement would use it to target blacks, we are now nationally harvesting 4 times as many people of color per capita to feed our "Institutional Racism system being called "The Prison Industrial Complex". In my home state of Minnesota we are targeting 9 times as many. Two goups are profiting from this blatant Racism, the gangs that have steadilly increased in power as they have spilled out of this prison system, and the Public Employees Unions who have gaind tremendouse political power from this arrogant growth industry.

Matthew C.

The self serving DEA has hijacked our constitution and basic rights for their own greed and power. They have block scientific research to maintain the fraud of prohibition mandating in their own rules to Lie about the truth. The have created an industrial complex from the 20 million arrested to the court required rehab center with 80% of there patient having to choose of jail or rehab. The truth is it should be Legalize