WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court Tuesday rejected a petition to reclassify marijuana from its current federal status as a dangerous drug with no accepted medical use.
The appeals court panel denied the bid from three medical marijuana groups, including Americans for Safe Access, and several individuals. In 2011, the Drug Enforcement Administration had rejected a petition by medical marijuana advocates to change the classification.
In his majority opinion Tuesday, Judge Harry T. Edwards wrote that the question wasn't whether marijuana could have some medical benefits, but rather whether the DEA's decision was "arbitrary and capricious." The court concluded that the DEA action survived a review under that standard.
The ruling came just months after Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana for recreational use. Last month, President Barack Obama said that federal authorities have "bigger fish to fry" than recreational drug users in those states
Edwards, an appointee of Democratic President Jimmy Carter, was joined by Judge Merrick B. Garland, an appointee of Democratic President Bill Clinton. The third judge on the panel, Karen LeCraft Henderson, an appointee of Republican President George H.W. Bush, wrote that none of the petitioners was in a legal position to challenge the government's stance and that the case should have been dismissed. The other two judges concluded that at least one of the people bringing the suit had standing to challenge the DEA's action.
In the federal system, marijuana is classified as a controlled substance, categorized as having a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use, together with drugs like heroin, LSD and ecstasy.
The court noted that the DEA denied the petition after the Department of Health and Human Services gave the DEA its evaluation that marijuana lacks a currently accepted medical use in the United States.
"Because the agency's factual findings in this case are supported by substantial evidence and because those factual findings reasonably support the agency's final decision not to reschedule marijuana, we must uphold the agency action," the court ruled.