For over four decades now, advocates for the responsible use of marijuana have been fighting an uphill battle against the Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S. government in an attempt to get weed moved off of the Schedule I list of drugs. The goal for groups like Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is to get pot moved down to at least Schedule II, where it can be studied and prescribed more effectively.
Founded in 2002, ASA has been helping to lead the way in cannabis law reform, lending their influence and expertise to local City Council decisions, all the way up to Supreme Court cases. It is there, with the U.S. Supreme Court, that Americans for Safe Access currently finds themselves fighting for the rightful rescheduling of marijuana.
After Americans for Safe Access had to threaten a lawsuit against the DEA for essentially ignoring a 2002 petition to reschedule marijuana, the DEA, and then the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, responded – after nine years of silence – with the legal equivalent of a “F-you, have a nice day”.
They based their decision on the consistently debunked claim that marijuana is dangerous and offers no medicinal value. In a perfectly crafted political conundrum, they demanded more “evidence”, ignoring or missing the point that the evidence is already overwhelming, and would be even more so should doctors and researchers across the country be freed from the current restrictions that come along with studying a Schedule I drug.
It is that “unreasonable and unprecedented standard” of demanding evidence that is currently illegal to obtain, along with the ignorance regarding the stacks of evidence that already does exist, that has ASA filing a special appeal – called a petition for writ of certiorari – to the United States Supreme Court.
The petition for writ of certiorari, informally referred to as a Cert Petition, is the last ditch opportunity for a losing party to have a lower court’s ruling reviewed by the Supreme Court. ASA hopes to convince the highest court in the land that getting high really does have medicinal benefits.
ASA Chief Council Joe Elford was quoted in October of last year as saying, “To deny that sufficient evidence is lacking on the medical efficacy of marijuana is to ignore a mountain of well documented studies that conclude otherwise. The Court has unreasonably raised the bar for what qualifies as an ‘adequate and well-controlled’ study, thereby continuing the government’s game of ‘Gotcha.'”
Previous attempts at marijuana rescheduling include a 22 year case of the DEA dawdling around a petition filed in 1972, only to deny it in 1994. During those two decades of debate, after sorting through thousands of pages of documentation and countless witness testimonies, the DEA’s very own Chief Administrative Law Judge, Francis L. Young, ruled that weed absolutely did not meet the criteria to be kept on Schedule I, and should be reclassified immediately. Young’s ruling was swiftly and silently struck down by the DEA Administer of the time, his opinions on the matter and years of case-building overruled by one unaccountable man.
Just think of the discoveries and innovation in the cannabis world since the early 1970’s, yet the arguments of the opposition remain as ridiculously out of fashion as bellbottoms and disco music.
Sitting on Schedule I somewhere between LSD and MDMA, like a jaywalker on death row, marijuana’s current best hope rests on the appeal attempt that ASA is aiming for with its Cert Petition to the Supreme Court. The unsettling reality is that the Supreme Court receives over a thousand of these petitions for writ of certiorari each year regarding various cases, and denies all but about a hundred of them.
Despite the nonstop flow of research results and studies pouring in from across the globe supporting the claims of marijuana advocates that it truly is a medicinally beneficial plant, historically, the courts have not been kind to cannabis.
Maybe this time will be different.
Time will tell, let’s just hope it’s not another decade before they get around to it.