The marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access asked a federal appeals court this week to force the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to hold a hearing to consider research on the drug’s benefits. The group wants marijuana reclassified so it is no longer considered a dangerous drug with no medical value.
Joe Elford, counsel for the group, argued the DEA has failed to weigh the evidence from a growing number of studies that show marijuana effectively relieves pain and nausea, according to the Los Angeles Times.
He said the DEA ignores marijuana’s medical benefits, while exaggerating its danger. Currently, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, which means it has no accepted medical benefits and has a high potential for abuse, the article notes. If marijuana is reclassified, it could be used under medical supervision, Elford said.
Since 1970, when marijuana was classified as a Schedule I drug, marijuana advocates have twice petitioned the DEA to consider reclassifying it. The DEA turned down the most recent petition in 2011, saying there was no scientific consensus on the medical benefits of the drug. Marijuana has many chemical components that are not well understood, the agency stated.
On Tuesday, Lena Watkins, a Justice Department lawyer, said the government continues to believe marijuana is dangerous. “It’s the most widely abused drug in the United States,” she said.
Two of the three judges hearing the case said they could not overturn the DEA’s decision unless they found it to be “arbitrary and capricious.” The third judge said that even if they changed the classification of marijuana, it would still be illegal.