Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Feds keep marijuana on same status as heroin

Ruling says it has no medical value, leads to abuse, physical dependence, extreme withdrawal symptoms

Washington – For the third time in 39 years, the Drug Enforcement Administration turned down a petition to take marijuana off the Schedule 1 list classification of the most dangerous drugs covered by the Controlled Substances Act.

Following a seven-year delay, the Department of Health and Human Services determined that the green, leafy, herbacious substance commonly used as a smoking mixture has no medical value, that it leads to long-term abuse, physical dependence, and dangerous withdrawal symptoms when its use is discontinued.

The petitioners had claimed that cannabis aids in the treatment of such diseases as glaucoma, eases the side effects of chemotherapy, and relieves the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Petitions to reclassify pot have failed twice before to be approved. The first, filed in 1972, took 17 years for a ruling. The second was filed in 1995 and denied six years later. Both decisions were appealed, but the courts sided with the federal government.

In October, 2002, the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis filed a new petition.

Earlier this month, the government responded by turning down the request after voters approved a referendum to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. The matter is not settled because the federal statutes still classify cannabis as a dangerous drug under schedule 1, the same classification as that given such highly addictive substances as heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine.

Supporters of the move rejoiced the decision, though they criticized its logic. They say they are now free to pursue the matter in a U.S. District Court, since administrative remedies have been exhausted.

"We have foiled the government’s strategy of delay, and we can now go head-to-head on the merits, that marijuana really does have therapeutic value," said Joe Elford, chief counsel for Americans for Safe Access and the lead counsel on the recently filed lawsuit.

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