Pubdate: Thu, 26 May 2011
Source: San Francisco Bay Times (CA)
Copyright: 2011 San Francisco Bay Times
Author: Dennis McMillan


Nearly nine years after filing a petition to reschedule marijuana for
medical use, a coalition of advocates has filed suit in federal court
to require the government to answer their petition within 60 days. The
rescheduling petition, filed to the DEA on October 9, 2002 by a
coalition of groups including NORML and Cal NORML (Coalition to
Reschedule Cannabis), argues that marijuana has "accepted medical use"
and should therefore be removed from Schedule I of the Controlled
Substances Act.

The petition was filed following the passage of Proposition 215 and
half a dozen other state medical marijuana laws. Marijuana's schedule
one status - meaning it has no federally accepted medical use -has
been a fundamental reason for the ongoing conflict between state and
federal marijuana laws. This lawsuit, filed on May 23 in the DC
District Court of Appeals, argues that the government has unreasonably
delayed in responding to the petition.

During the nine years since the petition was filed, nine more states
have moved to legalize medical use of marijuana; California's Center
for Medicinal Cannabis Research has completed five FDA studies showing
marijuana to be medically effective for neuropathic pain and multiple
sclerosis; and the DEA has acted to thwart FDA development of
marijuana by refusing to issue a license to the University of
Massachusetts to establish a garden to conduct FDA-approved medical
marijuana research.

Two years after the rescheduling petition was filed, a seriously ill
California patient, Angel Raich, took a case to the U.S. Supreme Court
arguing that she should be legally allowed to use marijuana for her
personal medical needs. Rejecting her claim, Justice Stephen Breyer
argued that she should have petitioned the government saying, "FDA
take this off the list ...The FDA will say yes or it will say no. If
it says yes, they win. If they say so, they can come right into court
and say, 'That's an abuse of discretion.'" Breyer was unaware that
such a petition had already been submitted by the CRC two years
previously (not to the FDA, but the DEA, which is the designated lead

That petition is still outstanding six and a half years later. In the
meantime, one of the petitioners, Dr. Jay Cavanaugh, has died.

"It is unacceptable for seriously ill Americans to wait a decade for
their government to even respond to their petition for legal access to
medicine to relieve their pain and suffering," remarked California
NORML director Dale Gieringer. "The government's unreasonable delay
seriously impugns its competence to oversee Americans' health care.
The administration should act promptly to address its obsolete and
bankrupt policy in accordance with President Obama's pledge to put
science above politics."

NORML first filed a petition to reschedule marijuana for medical use
in 1972. The DEA rejected that petition after 22 years of delay,
despite findings by the DEA's own administrative law judge that
marijuana had accepted medical use. The intervening years have
produced dozens of studies demonstrating that the marijuana does have
medical value, and it is now being used by over one million patients
in states with medical marijuana laws. 
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