Last month The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled against plaintiffs seeking a rescheduling of marijuana on the list of controlled substances.
The suit has been building since 2002, when The Coalition for Researching Cannabis filed a petition with the DEA to reschedule the drug. The petition was denied by the DEA in 2011. In denying the petition, the DEA reaffirmed that marijuana met the criteria for Schedule I. Those criteria are:
• a high potential for abuse;
• no currently accepted medical use in treatment;
• a lack of accepted safety for the use of the drug.
In its 2011 denial of petitioners’ rescheduling request, DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart alleged that cannabis possesses all three criteria, claiming: “[T]here are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving (marijuana’s) efficacy; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts. … At this time, the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.”
The appeals court ruled that the plaintiffs had not proved the DEA's classification of marijuana as a schedule I drug was "arbitrary and capricious."
In 1991, the DEA developed a 5 prong test for determining whether a drug has a valid medical use.
They have to have “a known and reproducible drug chemistry, adequate safety studies, adequate and well-controlled studies demonstrating efficacy, acceptance of the drug by qualified experts, and widely available scientific evidence.”
Since marijuana contains more than 480 known compounds, it does not have a "known and reproducible drug chemistry."
Kris Hermes, speaking on behalf of one of the plaintiffs, Americans for Safe Access, described this threshold as “applying a standard that’s impossible to meet.”
There are, however, marijuana derivative drugs and patents. Marinol is a synthetic THC sold by Abbott Pharmaceuticals. Sativex, a cannabis extract, is in clinical trials. And the United States Department of Health and Human Services was awarded US Patent #6630507, for the use of cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants.
This is more than a simple catch-22. It is a double-loop of endless contradiction. Our government appears willing to allow the individual components of marijuana to be extracted and sold as medicine, but it denies that marijuana itself could be medicine.
The next step for the plaintiffs is to get the case heard by the full DC Circuit.