Take the time to read Feds vs. Meds by Dean Kuipers. It’s worth it.
A couple of months ago, I told you about a little known new law that allows people to challenge scientific information disseminated by federal agencies.æ The law demands that agencies respond to petitions within two months. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) filed such a challenge just over two months ago regarding the government’s refusal to accept scientific evidence regarding medical marijuana. The Department of Health and Human Services has now filed for a two month extension. It’s another stalling tactic, but they will have to respond at the end of the next two months. And no matter how they respond, they will either have to admit marijuana benefits, or make legal statements that can be attacked by lawyers in court.
While this particular move only started in October, it is the culmination of over 30 years of effort.
Dean Kuipers does an outstanding job of explaining the entire situation, along with the history of stalling done by the federal government. Here’s an excerpt:
Consider the first petition, filed in 1972. Only two years after marijuana was lumped with LSD, heroin, and mescaline in Schedule I, NORML filed the first petition with the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, the predecessor to the DEA, which stalled for three years and then denied to hear the petition. A court forced them to hear it, then the DEA (formed in 1973) killed it without any hearings. A higher court of appeals again forced them to hear it, but it was easily killed off once more. Finally, in 1986, after another exhaustive, grinding court fight, the DEA caved in and assigned the investigation to its own DEA Administrative Law Judge, Francis L. Young.
Young spent two years hearing the testimony of scores of scientists, doctors, medical marijuana patients, law enforcement officers, agents, corrections officials and the like, and in 1988 came back with a stunning verdict. In one of the most celebrated documents in the history of pot activism, Young issued a ruling of over 100 pages, saying not only that the DEA must move pot to Schedule II, to have controlled medical use like cocaine and opium, but that “the evidence in this record clearly shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for the DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence of this record.”
Of course, the DEA swept it all under the carpet. It decided that Young had applied the wrong standard, that the testimony of doctors and patients didn’t show “a currently accepted medical use.” The record had to show controlled scientific testing – which neither the FDA nor the DEA would allow by law.
That decision went through five appeals before it was finally dead, in 1994, 22 years after the petition had been filed. But the movement to reschedule saw cracks in the feds’ armor and picked up steam. Dr. Jon Gettman, then the director of NORML, filed a new rescheduling petition in 1995. This was finally denied in 2001 – it only took seven years this time – but the reasons why it was denied were more specific and easily attacked. The phrase “arbitrary and capricious” began to resonate. It’s a magic one among lawyers, especially those fighting regulatory agencies.
Read this and you realize how silly Supreme Court Justice Breyer was when he asked, in Raich v. Ashcroft, why medical marijuana patients didn’t just follow the procedure for re-scheduling, rather than taking it to the Supreme court in a commerce clause case.
The federal government will use every drop of deceit, stalling, and legal maneuvering it can find. We’ll have to use the courts, the laws, the states, public opinion and more to drag the feds, kicking and screaming, to admitting the truth.