A lawsuit was filed challenging Cannabis’ federal classification as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) filed to have the lawsuit dismissed, stating that the Federal Government will not hear appeals for rescheduling of any controlled substance at this time. However, the contentious and precedent-setting lawsuit remains active after the Federal appeals court rejected the Drug Enforcement Administration request to dismiss.
The DEA tried to kill the suit by asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to dismiss it. The Judge stated in a filling that the “government’s motion to dismiss this petition for review for failure to exhaust administrative remedies is denied without prejudice to renewing the arguments in the answering brief.”
What that basically meant was that the DEA was contesting the suit based on the grounds that there are other avenues to petition for rescheduling of cannabis. And procedures rather than a court case. The Supreme Court may have felt that the time was right to have another legal conversation about the Schedule 1 classification of cannabis.
The lawsuit was filed back in May 2020 by a group of scientists and veterans as part of an effort to claim that such designation is unconstitutional based on the widespread medical use of marijuana. They requested a review of its decisions to reject rescheduling petitions files in 2020, 2016, and 1992.
The petitioners questioned the DEA’s reliance on scheduling standards that misinterpret federal law. In particular, they are questioning the agency’s claims that cannabis must be strictly scheduled because the government has stated that it has no currently accepted medical value and is not safe despite growing clinical evidence to the contrary, into the medicinal use and potential therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids.
In the past, when there was a rejection of rescheduling petitions, the DEA was quick to assert that marijuana can only be in either Schedule I or II. But, the plaintiffs stated in an earlier filing that the statute that justified that determination was “an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority. It violates core separation of powers principles.”
It is more likely that the U.S. Congress will either reschedule or deschedule marijuana. The one-page order from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco urged all parties to submit briefs later this fall. At the time of writing, there are 34 states that have legalized medical marijuana for patients with qualifying health conditions.
The DEA has also been under pressure for months from congressional lawmakers who want the agency to issue additional marijuana cultivation licenses for research purposes. On the other hand, the DEA states that it needs time to come up with proper policies for the research program.
According to a 2018 U.S. Department of Justice legal memo, the research program failed to thrive because the DOJ believes the previous program rules could have gone against the international drug laws. The DEA and FDA say that they need evidence-based clinical research before they can deschedule or reschedule cannabis. However, the Schedule 1 status of cannabis makes it difficult, if not impossible, to receive Federal funding for research and clinical trials.
The DOJ further states that the DEA should wholly possess and control cannabis distribution because it is federally illegal. Right now, marijuana is only shipped directly to researchers from a cultivation center located at the University of Mississippi. This is the only DEA licensed grower. Therefore, it is very inconvenient for many research centers countrywide that require their marijuana for study purposes, hence the call for additional growers for research.
The DEA continues to receive pressure to ease the laws concerning marijuana, especially as a schedule 1 drug. However, if the suit is ruled in favor of the veterans and scientists, then the DEA will have no choice but to reconsider and change their stance. Regardless of international treaties, the DEA will have to reschedule marijuana and remove it from Schedule I and not move it to Schedule II but make it legal and acceptable for use in the medical field and recreational purposes.
According to industry experts, this move will change the cannabis industry and create many opportunities for cannabis business owners, growers, employees, and the Federal government as tax revenue.