A federal appeals court has denied a request from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to dismiss a lawsuit challenging marijuana’s current classification under federal law.
Scientists and veterans sued the federal agency in May, arguing that the legal basis DEA has used to justify keeping cannabis in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act is unconstitutional. They asked for a review of its decisions to reject rescheduling petitions in 2020, 2016 and 1992.
While DEA attempted to quash the suit by asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to dismiss the case, the judges said in a filing on Tuesday that the “government’s motion to dismiss this petition for review for failure to exhaust administrative remedies is denied without prejudice to renewing the arguments in the answering brief.”
Shane Pennington, an attorney representing the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) in the case, told Marijuana Moment that, given the court’s response, “we fully expect a 9th Circuit panel to consider our arguments on the merits.”
Petitioners have raised questions about DEA’s reliance on scheduling standards that they feel are arbitrary and misinterpret federal law. In particular, they are seeking reviews of the agency’s claims that marijuana must be strictly scheduled because, the government has claimed, it has no currently accepted medical value and has not been proven to be safe.
They also argue that another statutory policy DEA says necessitates marijuana being strictly controlled is unconstitutional.
In its past denials of rescheduling petitions, the agency has asserted that marijuana can only be placed in either Schedule I or II. But the plaintiffs said in an earlier filing that the statute justifying that determination is “an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority” that “violates core separation of powers principles” by granting the attorney general authority to schedule drugs on his or her discretion based on an interpretation of international treaty obligations.
This isn’t the first time that SRI has taken the feds to court over their marijuana decisions.
The institute, which is among several dozen applicants to become a federally authorized manufacturer of cannabis for research purposes, successfully forced DEA to issue an update on the status of their application processing and then got the Justice Department to hand over a “secret” memo that DEA allegedly used to justify a delay in deciding on those proposals.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter to DEA on Tuesday, demanding that the agency “expeditiously” finalize rules to license more marijuana growers for research purposes.
In a separate lawsuit against DEA, medical cannabis patients challenging the federal prohibition of marijuana are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take their case after a series of rulings in lower courts since the original lawsuit was filed in 2017.
Read the federal appeals court’s denial of DEA motion to dismiss the marijuana case below: