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Media Alerts - Americans for Safe Access v. DEA - D.C. Circuit
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January 22, 2013
  Americans for Safe Access v. DEA - D.C. Circuit
Headline: D.C. Circuit Upholds DEA Decision Not to Reclassify Marijuana for Medical Use

Area of Law: Administrative Law

Issue Presented: Whether DEA's decision not to reclassify marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act was arbitrary and capricious.

Brief Summary: Petitioners, including Krawitz, an injured veteran seeking to use marijuana for pain management, unsuccessfully petitioned the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to initiate proceedings to reschedule marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to broaden access for medical purposes. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the DEA's decision not to initiate proceedings to reschedule marijuana under the CSA was not arbitrary and capricious. Under the CSA, drugs are listed on one of five schedules which impose varying restrictions on access to the drug. Marijuana is currently assigned to Schedule I, the most restrictive of the five schedules, reserved for drugs that are made available to doctors only for research purposes under tightly controlled conditions. Petitioners had requested that DEA reschedule marijuana as a less restricted Schedule III, IV, or V drug. Such a reclassification would be the first step to lifting federal restrictions on the medical use of marijuana and would potentially allow federal funds to go to patients participating in state medical-marijuana programs.The DEA declined to initiate rescheduling proceedings, concluding that marijuana had no "currently accepted medical use" under its established five-part test: (1) The drug's chemistry must be known and reproducible; (2) There must be adequate safety studies; (3) There must be adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy; (4) The drug must be accepted by qualified experts; and (5) The scientific evidence must be widely available."

The D.C. Circuit denied the petition for review. The court first concluded that Petitioner Krawitz had standing because he was forced to pay out-of-pocket for care that he could otherwise receive free through the VA system, and a DEA decision rescheduling marijuana would significantly increase the likelihood of reduced out-of-pocket costs. Turning to the merits, the court noted that a drug will only be deemed to have a medical use when all five criteria are met and focused on the third prong. The court concluded that petitioners had not demonstrated the existence of "adequate and well-controlled studies." Although petitioners had cited to more than 200 peer reviewed studies demonstrating marijuana's efficacy for various medical uses, the court determined that DEA's conclusion that those studies did not meet the "adequate and well-controlled" requirement was "eminently reasonable" and denied the petition for review.

The dissent would have dismissed for lack of standing.

The full text of the opinion is available at

Panel: Henderson, Garland, Edwards

Argument Date: 10/16/2012

Date of Issued Opinion: 01/22/2013

Docket Number: 11-1265

Decided: Petition for review denied

Case Alert Author: Ripple Weistling

Counsel (if known): Joseph D. Elford for Petitioner; Lena Watkins, Lanny A. Breuer, and Anita J. Gay for Respondent.

Author of Opinion: Edwards (majority); Henderson (dissent).

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Elizabeth Beske/Ripple Weistling

Edited: 01/28/2013 at 09:30 AM by Media Alerts Moderator

    Posted By: Elizabeth Beske @ 01/22/2013 02:40 PM     DC Circuit  

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