Medical Marijuana Advocates Sue Federal Government over Rescheduling Delay

Americans for Safe Access
**For Immediate Release:* May 23, 2011**

*Medical Marijuana Advocates Sue Federal Government over Rescheduling Delay
*/Writ filed today in DC Circuit Court for unreasonable delay in
answering 9-year-old petition/*

*Washington, DC* -- A Coalition of advocacy groups and patients filed
suit in the DC Circuit Court today to compel the Obama administration to
answer a 9-year-old petition to reclassify medical marijuana. The
Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) has never received an answer
to its 2002 petition, despite a formal recommendation in 2006 from the
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to the Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA), the final arbiter in the rescheduling process. As
recently as July 2010, the DEA issued a 54-page "Position on Marijuana,"
but failed to even mention the pending CRC petition. Plaintiffs in the
case include the CRC, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), Patients Out of
Time, as well as individually named patients, one of whom is listed on
the CRC petition but died in 2005.

"The federal government's strategy has been delay, delay, delay," said
Joe Elford, Chief Counsel of ASA and lead counsel on the writ. "It is
far past time for the government to answer our rescheduling petition,
but unfortunately we've been forced to go to court in order to get
resolution." The writ of mandamus filed today accuses the government of
unreasonable delay in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. A
previous cannabis (marijuana) rescheduling petition filed in 1972 went
unanswered for 22 years before being denied.

The writ argues that cannabis is not a dangerous drug and that ample
evidence of its therapeutic value exists based on scientific studies in
the US and around the world. "Despite numerous peer-reviewed scientific
studies establishing that marijuana is effective" in treating numerous
medical conditions, the government "continues to deprive seriously ill
persons of this needed, and often life-saving therapy by maintaining
marijuana as a Schedule I substance." The writ calls out the government
for unlawfully failing to answer the petition despite an Inter-Agency
Advisory issued by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006 and "almost
five years after receiving a 41-page memorandum from HHS stating its
scientific evaluation and recommendations."

The two largest physician groups in the country -- the American Medical
and the American College of Physicians
-- have both called on the federal government to review marijuana's
status as a Schedule I substance with no accepted medical use and a high
potential for abuse. The National Cancer Institute, a part of the
National Institutes of Health, added cannabis to its website earlier
this year as a Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) and recognized
that, "/Cannabis/ has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of
years prior to its current status as an illegal substance."

Medical marijuana has now been decriminalized in 16 states and the
District of Columbia, and has an 80% approval rating among Americans
according to several polls. In a 1988 ruling on a prior rescheduling
petition, the DEA's own Administrative Law Judge Francis Young
recommended in favor of reclassification stating that, "Marijuana, in
its natural form, is one of the safest
therapeutically active substances known to man."

A formal rejection of the CRC petition would enable the group to
challenge in court the government's assertion that marijuana has no
medical value. "Adhering to outdated public policy that ignores science
has created a war zone for doctors and their patients who are seeking
use cannabis therapeutics," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of ASA
and a plaintiff in the writ. Jon Gettman, who filed the rescheduling
petition on behalf of the CRC added that, "The Obama Administration's
refusal to act on this petition is an irresponsible stalling tactic."

A synthetic form of THC, the main chemical ingredient in the cannabis
plant, is currently classified Schedule III for its use in a prescribed
pill trademarked as Marinol®. The pill goes off-patent this year and
companies vying to sell generic versions are petitioning the government
to also reclassify the more economical, naturally-derived THC (from the
plant) to Schedule III. The rescheduling process involves federal
agencies such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse, HHS, and DEA. On
average, it takes 6 months from HHS review to final action, whereas it's
been nearly 5 years since HHS issued its recommendation on the CRC
petition, more than twice as long as any other rescheduling petition
reviewed since 2002.

*Further information:*
ASA backgrounder on rescheduling:
CRC rescheduling petition:
2006 HHS recommendation:
2010 DEA Position on Marijuana:

# # #

With over 50,000 active members in all 50 states, Americans for Safe
Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of
patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens
promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and
research. ASA works to overcome political and legal barriers by creating
policies that improve access to medical cannabis for patients and
researchers through legislation, education, litigation, grassroots
actions, advocacy and services for patients and the caregivers.

Kris Hermes
Media Specialist
Americans for Safe Access
1322 Webster Street, Suite 402
Oakland, CA 94612
Phone: 510-251-1856

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest
national member-based 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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