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Is marijuana as dangerous as heroin? Our research -- based entirely on Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream -- would suggest no, but the government needs facts and figures and non-dramatized evidence to make that call.
And that's where the federal courts come in.
Next Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will consider whether marijuana has therapeutic value or whether it should remain a useless Schedule I drug.
A Schedule I drug is considered to have a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S. Heroin and crack are understandably Schedule I drugs, but many medical professionals (and states) believe that marijuana can be used for medical purposes.
The petitioner, Americans for Safe Access, will argue before the D.C. Circuit that the Drug Enforcement Administration's most recent classification of marijuana as a Schedule I substance was arbitrary and capricious because a number of studies support the use of medical marijuana.
Marijuana policy reformers initially petitioned the DEA to reschedule marijuana in 2002. The DEA denied the petition almost 10 years later, saying there wasn't substantial evidence the drug should be removed from Schedule I. The agency cited a five-year-old assessment from the Department of Health and Human Services that said there was no consensus in the medical community on the medical applications of marijuana, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The ASA sued for judicial review of that decision.
Because the Controlled Substances Act's rescheduling provision was designed to ensure a "serious consideration" of the appropriate scheduling of drugs, the ASA argues that the DEA's denial of the 2002 rescheduling petition did not measure up to statutory and judicial standards. Based on the D.C. Circuit's 1994 opinion in Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics v. DEA, ASA argues that the proper rescheduling consideration should be whether medical marijuana is "accepted by qualified experts," not whether there's a "consensus" of expert opinion favoring its use.
If the D.C. Circuit agrees that the DEA should have used the "accepted by qualified experts" standard, ASA has a strong chance of winning its appeal. The American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Nurses Association, the Federation of American Scientists and the American Academy of Family Physicians support either medical access to marijuana or its reclassification as a drug that has a medical benefit, according to The Wall Street Journal.