Jon Gettman is a long time contributor to HIGH TIMES. A former National Director of NORML, Jon has a Ph.D. in public policy and regional economic development and consults with attorneys, advocates, and non-profits on cannabis related research and public policy issues. On October 8, 2002, along with a coalition of organizations, he filed a new petition to have cannabis rescheduled under federal law. This column will track that petition's progress.
April 17, 2003
On April 3, 2003, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) formally accepted an administrative petition seeking federal recognition of the accepted medical use of cannabis in the United States, activating a federal review of marijuana's status under federal law that could eventually result in its medical availability. The petition by the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) was filed in October, 2002 and seeks establishment of a legal production and distribution system for medical cannabis in the United States under existing provisions of the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
DEA has resisted accepting the CRC petition for nearly 6 months. However in response to a recent letter the DEA has notified Coalition attorneys that: "The DEA has accepted for filing your petition, dated October 9, 2002, to reschedule marijuana. The DEA is currently evaluating the petition in accordance with the procedures and criteria set forth in 21 U.S.C. Section 811 and 812."
The Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis is comprised of the American Alliance for Medical Cannabis, Americans for Safe Access, California NORML, the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, Jon Gettman, HIGH TIMES, Iowans for Medical Marijuana, the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center, the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative, Patients Out of Time and other interested individuals.
A rescheduling petition is a document that summarizes the scientific data supporting changes in the scheduling of a controlled substance. Marijuana is regulated by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) but unavailable for medical use in the United States because it is a Schedule I substance. The federal government insists that cannabis has a high potential for abuse, is unsafe for use under medical supervision and has no accepted medical use in the United States. The Coalition argues that all three of the government's claims are incorrect and that each is contradicted by scientific research and medical convention.
By accepting the petition for filing, the DEA has acknowledged that the petition has activated sections of the Controlled Substances Act that require the government to conduct a review of the scientific evidence that is legally relevant to the status of cannabis under federal law. Section 811 cited by the DEA explains the review process they must conduct and section 812 provides the criteria for the regulatory schedules of the CSA.
DEA now must formally evaluate the petition to determine if they are required by law to refer it to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for a full medical and scientific evaluation of the evidence cited in the petition and all other evidence available at that time regarding the medical use of cannabis. If the petition contains new scientific data and addresses new issues that were not considered in prior proceedings, DEA must refer it to HHS for the full scientific review under the provisions of 21 USC 811.
The Coalition believes the scientific and medical record supports the recognition of the accepted medical use of cannabis in the United States. The rescheduling process provides a way to reconcile scientific and medical research findings with the legal status of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act, while forcing the government to justify marijuana prohibition. It also provides a means to end the current blockade on medical availability by providing for review by the federal courts. DEA's acceptance of the petition for filing gets this process rolling; it's an acknowledgement that the Coalition's argument has too much legal and scientific substance for them to dismiss.
On account of the Coalition's petition, the DEA has acknowledged that there is a significant argument in support of the medical use of cannabis. This admission will contribute further to public support for medical cannabis, which will continue to increase as DEA conducts its evaluation of the Coalition's arguments and evidence. Whether it is successful or not in the long run may depend on public support as much as its legal and scientific foundation. Nonetheless, the rescheduling process has begun