Marijuana is currently considered a Schedule I drug, meaning that it has no accepted medical use according to the federal government. Under this classification, marijuana is legally considered to be more harmful than serious drugs like cocaine and meth. Marijuana activists and lawmakers have long pleaded the case for rescheduling marijuana, but it has always faced denial from federal officials.
However, a federal court has finally agreed to take on Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration. ASA has been fighting to have the case heard for ten years, and they will finally have the opportunity to present scientific evidence on the medical benefits and safety of marijuana use. Oral arguments for the case will begin on October 16th.
Joe Elford, chief counsel with Americans for Safe Access was thrilled to hear that the case will finally be heard in federal court. He explained that, “Medical marijuana patients are finally getting their day in court. This is a rare opportunity for patients to confront politically motivated decision-making with scientific evidence of marijuana’s medical efficacy. What’s at stake in this case is nothing less than our country’s scientific integrity and the imminent needs of millions of patients.”
If marijuana were to be moved down to even a Schedule II drug, the federal government would be acknowledging that it has medical benefits and should be able to be prescribed to patients by doctors.
A recent study published in The Open Neurology Journal found that marijuana’s Schedule I classification is “not tenable” and that it is “not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.”
Rescheduling supporters believe that marijuana does not meet the Controlled Substances Act’s strict criteria for placement in Schedule I (including that the drug must have no accepted medical value as well as a “high potential for abuse.”) Therefore, they argue that the government is required by law either to allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes or to remove the drug from federal control altogether.
Contrastingly, the government has maintained the position that marijuana is dangerous enough to merit Schedule I status. The dispute is based on differing views on how the Act should be interpreted and what kinds of scientific evidence are most relevant to the rescheduling decision.
Supporters hope that this case will bring change to the way that the US handles marijuana. This is the first time since 1994 that the question of medical marijuana will go before a federal court.