Lawsuit Against The DEA Seeks to Downgrade Cannabis From Schedule I

A new lawsuit from the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) in Arizona has filed legal action against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in attempts to downgrade the scheduling of cannabis.

For the past half-century, cannabis has existed within a catch-22 of legality in the United States, ever since it was placed into the Schedule I status during Nixon's War on Drugs in the 70s.

Schedule I status was designed to include all of the "hardest" drugs that had no medicinal benefit while having a high potential for abuse. Other drugs alongside cannabis in the Schedule I status are LSD, MDMA, heroin, magic mushrooms and several others.

The issue, however, with being placed in this "no-go zone" of drugs, is that it makes researching Schedule I drugs much more difficult.

According to a study entitled 'The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research,' the federal illegality of cannabis remains a huge barrier to researchers looking to determine the potential medical benefits of the plant:

"Investigators seeking to conduct research on cannabis or cannabinoids must navigate a series of review processes that may involve the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), institutional review boards, offices or departments in state government, state boards of medical examiners, the researcher's home institution, and potential funders."

The catch-22 that comes with being a schedule I substance is that it's particularly difficult to determine whether there are legitimate medicinal benefits with a drug, due to the restrictions to research placed upon schedule I substances. Moreover, many have pointed to the growing list of medical benefits that cannabis can provide, especially in the instances of epilepsy and chronic pain as a way to highlight the false categorization of cannabis in the United States.

However, this could all be about to change, thanks to a lawsuit led by Sue Sisley with the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) in Arizona, along with three military veterans, who are taking action against the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

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A press release from the Scottsdale Research Institute stated that the DEA has been applying "the wrong legal standard in determining whether a drug has a 'currently accepted medical use' under the Controlled Substances Act."

The lawsuit seeks to downgrade the scheduling of cannabis from Schedule I down to a Schedule III substance, which would make the plant much more accessible for clinical trials and research.

"The federal government has repeatedly said it is powerless to reschedule marijuana because of the absence of clinical trials," said Sisley. "But what we've shown over the past few years is that there are few randomized controlled trials (RCT) because of marijuana's scheduling. They have set an unattainable standard by demanding RCTs but not allowing for real-world cannabis study drug to be utilized. So you're in the classic situation of garbage in equals garbage out."

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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