Federal Appeals Panel Refuses to Overturn DEA’s Classification of Marijuana as a “Dangerous Drug”
Since the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. section 801, et. seq., was first passed in 1970, marijuana has been classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as a Schedule I drug, the most restrictive of the five schedules of controlled substances. The initial House of Representatives report recommended that Congress classify marijuana as Schedule I at least temporarily “until the completion of certain studies now underway to resolve the issue,” reasoning that not enough was known about the effects of the drug. Since then, multiple requests that the DEA reconsider its decision have all failed, on the grounds that there is still insufficient research to make a determination.
On January 22, 2013, the most recent attempt failed before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, notwithstanding the plaintiff’s citation of more than 200 peer-reviewed studies concluding that cannabis had some legitimate medical benefits. Americans for Safe Access, et al., v. Drug Enforcement Administration, (D.C. Cir. No. 11-1265, Jan. 22, 2013).
The Court deferred to the DEA, declining to invalidate the current classification. It concluded that it could only address the “limited question” of whether the DEA’s refusal to initiate proceedings to reschedule marijuana was “arbitrary and capricious.” The Court decided that the DEA acted within its authority in requiring more rigorous and definitive studies than those submitted, despite the fact that the current restrictions make such studies unusually difficult to carry out.