For the first time in nearly 20 years, a United States Court of Appeals is set to hear oral arguments in a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s classification of marijuana as a dangerous drug with no medicinal value: Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration. This historic case will force a federal court to finally review the scientific evidence regarding the therapeutic efficacy of marijuana.
During a press briefing Thursday, plaintiffs in the case, along with leading medical researchers and clinicians, spoke about the necessity of the federal government recognizing current scientific data supporting marijuana rescheduling. Marijuana is currently classified in the same category as heroin despite calls from scientists, medical professionals, and policy makers to reschedule marijuana for medical use.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear opening arguments on the case the morning of October 16, 2012. “Medical marijuana patients are finally getting their day in court,” said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), who will be arguing the case before the D.C. Circuit. “What’s at stake in this case is nothing less than our country’s scientific integrity and the imminent needs of millions of patients.”
On the call, Dr. Donald Abrams, Director of Clinical Programs at San Francisco General Hospital, described the effectiveness of medical marijuana in the treatment regimens of cancer and HIV/AIDS patients. “In my practice every day as a cancer specialist I see patients who have loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting from their chemotherapy, pain on and off of opiates, anxiety, depression, and insomnia,” conditions which Dr. Abrams said can be alleviated by medical marijuana.
Dr. Igor Grant, Executive Vice-Chair, Department of Psychiatry, University of California-San Diego School of Medicine, and director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, stated that multiple California state-supported studies have resulted in “very good evidence” that medical marijuana “is effective in treating muscle spasticity,” which is often experienced by patients with Multiple Sclerosis and other painful disorders. He added that it is critical to separate out patients’ legitimate medical needs from other issues surrounding marijuana’s distribution and usage. Dr. Grant recently published a study in Open Neurology Journal concluding that marijuana’s current classification is “untenable.”
Plaintiff Michael Krawitz, a U.S. Air Force veteran and medical marijuana patient, conveyed his struggle in managing his pain without relinquishing federally-mandated VA benefits under marijuana’s current classification. Without access to medical marijuana, he stated he is in danger of destabilizing his overall health condition, a situation Krawitz has faced multiple times due to federal policy.
Steph Sherer, ASA’s Executive Director, ended the call by noting that the rescheduling case coincides with the organization’s 10th anniversary of its founding, which will be marked by an event the night of October 16th honoring individuals, including numerous elected officials, who have led the fight for patient access.
“The time has come to address medical marijuana as a public health issue and for the federal government to prioritize science over politics,” Sherer said.
- Audio recording (at top of this post) of Thursday’s teleconference briefing on the rescheduling case:
Reprinted with permission from Americans for Safe Access‘ Press Room.