Appellate judges defer to federal health experts and side with the DEA.
But three judges said they had a duty to defer to the judgment of federal health experts who had concluded they needed more evidence before reclassifying marijuana.
“To establish accepted medical use, the effectiveness of a drug must be established in well-controlled, well-designed, well-conducted and well-documented scientific studies [with] a large number of patients. To date, such studies have not been performed,” the Drug Enforcement Administration said in defense of its decision. The passage was quoted in Tuesday’s opinion.
Judge Harry Edwards, writing for the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, said the judges did not dispute that “marijuana could have some medical benefits.” Instead, he said, they were not willing to overrule the DEA because they had not seen large “well-controlled studies” that proved the medical value of marijuana.
“We’re disappointed, but not surprised,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access. She said more than 1 million patients used marijuana as medicine across the nation.
She said the group would appeal to the Supreme Court. “We are also turning our attention toCongress. It is time we had a conversation about marijuana at the federal level,” she said.
In December, President Obama and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said they were prepared to reconsider federal law that makes possession of small amounts of marijuana a crime. They were reacting to voters in Colorado and Washington who opted to permit recreational users to have an ounce of marijuana at home.
“So, what we’re going to need to have is a conversation about how do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that it’s legal,” Obama told ABC News.
Leahy said he would consider legislative proposals that could relax federal enforcement against small amounts of marijuana.