Federal Medical Marijuana Policy Harmful to Patients
Appeals court issued rare order last week for supplemental briefing on "standing" in landmark federal case
Washington, D.C. -- Less than a week after oral arguments in the landmark federal case to reclassify marijuana for medical use, the plaintiffs filed an additional brief late yesterday at the request of the court. In the case Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration, the D.C. Circuit issued an order last week seeking details on the harm sustained by plaintiff and disabled U.S. Air Force veteran Michael Krawitz as a result of the federal government's policy on medical marijuana.
The federal appeals court will use this additional briefing to decide whether the plaintiffs have legal "standing" to bring such a lawsuit against the government. The lawsuit argues that the government has acted arbitrarily and capriciously by keeping marijuana classified as a Schedule I substance, a dangerous drug with no medical value. By ignoring the overwhelming scientific evidence, ASA argues that the federal government has kept marijuana out of reach for millions of Americans who would otherwise benefit from its therapeutic value.
"The court's request for clarification is a sign that this case is being taken very seriously," said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and the attorney who is arguing before the D.C. Circuit. "The experience of plaintiff Michael Krawitz being denied treatment by the Department of Veterans Affairs is real and emblematic of many other patients caught up in the federal government's harmful policy on medical marijuana." According to Krawitz, his denial of Veterans Affairs (VA) treatment has forced him to "expend significant economic and other resources to be treated by an Oregon physician outside the VA system, which I pay for on my own."
The brief filed yesterday by ASA argues that, "The injuries suffered by Krawitz are caused by marijuana's placement in Schedule I and would be redressed by a favorable decision in this case." Specifically, the brief states that Krawitz was "denied prescription pain medication for a time and compelled to this day to seek pain treatment outside the VA system because he refused to sign a VA pain contract that would require him to abstain from the use of medical marijuana."
Legal "standing" is where the courts consider the harm endured by the plaintiffs. If standing is satisfied, the court can then rule on the merits of a case. The previous legal challenge to the classification of marijuana was rejected by the D.C. Circuit in 2002 because of inadequate standing, however no actual medical marijuana patients were part of that case. Not only are there several patient plaintiffs in the current legal challenge, but ASA is also alleging harm by having to counter political rhetoric with scientific information.
The case Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration is the result of a petition to reclassify marijuana that was filed in 2002 by the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis, but denied last year by the federal government. In January, ASA appealed the denial of the petition and got the chance last week to argue marijuana's medical efficacy before the D.C. Circuit. This is the first time in nearly 20 years that the court is hearing arguments on the scientific evidence of medical marijuana.
"What's at stake in this case is nothing less than our country's scientific integrity and the imminent needs of millions of patients," continued Elford. Nevertheless, it could take weeks or even months before the D.C. Circuit renders a decision in the case.
ASA's supplemental brief filed yesterday: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/ASA_v_DEA_Supp_Brief.pdf
Affidavit of Michael Krawitz: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/ASA_v_DEA_Krawitz_Affidavit.pdf
ASA appeal brief: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/CRC_Appeal.pdf
CRC rescheduling petition: http://www.drugscience.org/PDF/Petition_Final_2002.pdf