Patient Advocates File Appeal Brief in Federal Case to Reclassify Medical Marijuana

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford 415-573-7842 or ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes 510-681-6361
 

Patient Advocates File Appeal Brief in Federal Case to Reclassify Medical Marijuana

Lawsuit in the D.C. Circuit challenges DEA denial to reschedule marijuana for medical use

WASHINGTON - The country's leading medical marijuana advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), filed an appeal brief today in the D.C. Circuit to compel the federal government to reclassify marijuana for medical use. In July 2011, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) denied a petition filed in 2002 by the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC), which was denied only after the coalition sued the government for unreasonable delay. The ASA brief filed today is an appeal of the CRC rescheduling denial.

"By ignoring the wealth of scientific evidence that clearly shows the therapeutic value of marijuana, the Obama Administration is playing politics at the expense of sick and dying Americans," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, who filed the appeal today. "For the first time in more than 15 years we will be able to present evidence in court to challenge the government's flawed position on medical marijuana." Although two other rescheduling petitions have been filed since the establishment of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, the merits of medical efficacy was reviewed only once by the courts in 1994.

The ASA appeal brief asserts that the federal government acted arbitrarily and capriciously in its efforts to deny marijuana to millions of patients throughout the United States. ASA argues in the brief that the DEA has no "license to apply different criteria to marijuana than to other drugs, ignore critical scientific data, misrepresent social science research, or rely upon unsubstantiated assumptions, as the DEA has done in this case." ASA is urging the court to "require the DEA to analyze the scientific data evenhandedly," and order "a hearing and findings based on the scientific record."

Patient advocates argue that by failing to reclassify marijuana, the federal government has stifled meaningful research into a wide array of therapeutic uses, such as pain relief, appetite stimulation, nausea suppression, and spasticity control among many other benefits. In 1988, the government ignored the ruling of its own Administrative Law Judge Francis Young who said that, "Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man."

Since the CRC petition was filed in 2002, an even greater number of studies have been published that show the medical benefits of marijuana for illnesses such as neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer's. Recent studies even show that marijuana may inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Last year, the National Cancer Institute, a division of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, added cannabis to its list of Complementary Alternative Medicines, pointing out that it's been therapeutically used for millennia. The ASA appeal asserts that scientific evidence that  was studied or discovered after 2002 is still relevant and must be considered.

Attorneys David Holland and Michael Kennedy filed the original petition in 2002 on behalf the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis, which included several individual patients and groups, such as ASA and Patients Out of Time.

AFI: Several patient-petitioners are available for interviews:

William Britt -- 562-818-0420
Mr. Britt is a 52-year-old resident of Long Beach, California, who developed polio as a child, which caused him to have scoliosis, a fused left ankle, shortened left leg, and bone degeneration in his left hip.  Mr. Britt also suffers from epilepsy, depression and insomnia, and uses marijuana to treat chronic pain in his leg, back, and hip. Marijuana has reduced Mr. Britt's seizures and depression, and helps him sleep. Although Mr. Britt has taken prescription medication such as Marinol, Robaxin, Soma, and Xanax, none has proven as effective as marijuana.

Michael Krawitz -- 540-365-2141
Mr. Krawitz is a 49-year-old resident of Elliston, Virginia, who suffered an automobile accident in 1984 while serving in the United States Air Force.  Mr. Krawitz has been rated by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as being totally and permanently disabled. Mr. Krawitz uses marijuana to treat chronic pain and trauma associated with his accident.  He also use marijuana to treat central serous retinopathy. However, because of Mr. Krawitz's medical marijuana use, he has been denied pain treatment by the VA.

Steph Sherer -- 510-872-7822
Ms. Sherer is a resident of Washington, D.C. and the founder and Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA). In April of 2000, Ms. Sherer suffered a physical attack that has caused her to suffer from a condition known as torticollis, which causes her to experience inflammation, muscle spasms, pain throughout her body, and decreased mobility in her neck. Because of pain medication she was prescribed, including Soma, Robaxin and Ibuprofin, Ms. Sherer suffered kidney damage. After her doctor recommended medical marijuana, Ms. Sherer successfully reduced her inflammation, muscle spasms, and pain. This prompted Ms. Sherer to found ASA in April of 2002 to share what she learned about the medical benefits of marijuana with others. Since then, ASA has grown to more than thirty-five thousand members, including many seriously ill persons who would have benefited from the use of marijuana for medical purposes, but who were deterred from doing so, in part, by the government's statements that marijuana “has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”

Further information:
ASA appeal brief filed today: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/CRC_Appeal.pdf
DEA answer to CRC petition: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/CRC_Petition_DEA_Answer.pdf

CRC rescheduling petition: http://www.drugscience.org/PDF/Petition_Final_2002.pdf

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Americans for Safe Access is the nation's largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.

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