Today, September 6, 2013, marks the 25th anniversary of the ruling by DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young who ruled that cannabis did not meet the legal criteria of a Schedule I prohibited drug and should be reclassified. He strongly believed that marijuana is, indeed, medicine.
He declared that cannabis in its natural form is "one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. (T)he provisions of the (Controlled Substances) Act permit and require the transfer of marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II".
Highlights of Judge Young’s decision include:
"Based upon the facts established in this record and set out above, one must reasonably conclude that there is accepted safety for use of marijuana under medical supervision."
"To conclude otherwise, on this record, would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious."
"The cannabis plant considered as a whole has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, there is no lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision and it may lawfully be transferred from Schedule I to Schedule II".
Judge Young stated: “In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating 10 raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death. Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within the supervised routine of medical care”.
The first petition under this process was filed in 1972 to allow cannabis to be legally prescribed by physicians. The petition was ultimately denied after 22 years of court challenges, although a pill form of cannabis' psychoactive ingredient, THC, was rescheduled in 1985 to allow prescription under schedule II. In 1999 it was again rescheduled to allow prescription under schedule III. A second petition, based on claims related to clinical studies, was denied in 2001. The most recent rescheduling petition was filed by medical cannabis advocates in 2002, but was denied by the DEA in July 2011.
As of August 2013, 20 states and Washington D.C. have legalized the use of medical marijuana. See the map of states with legalized or decriminalized cannabis for further details.
It is clear that 25 years ago, Judge Young had a clear understanding of the benefits of cannabis. Unfortunately, federal and many state laws have not embraced Judge Young’s ruling, therefore the movement to legalize cannabis in the United States continues.