NEW YORK -- A medical marijuana group filed a petition on Friday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, asking for a do-over on a key ruling in the fight to reclassify the drug as safe for medical use.
As Americans for Safe Access acknowledged in its court filing, such rehearings are "extraordinary and rarely granted." That means the next stop in the long-running battle against the Drug Enforcement Administration could be the Supreme Court, setting up a high court battle over patients' right to get high.
In January the D.C. Circuit held that Michael Krawitz, an Air Force veteran denied access to Veterans Administration benefits because he wanted to be able to use medical marijuana, could sue the DEA over its failure to reschedule marijuana as a drug that does have some medical uses.
But while Krawitz could sue, the court said, he wouldn't win: Discounting 200 peer-reviewed studies cited by the plaintiffs, it rejected Krawitz and Americans for Safe Access' lawsuit on the merits. The court said that in order to reschedule marijuana, the DEA would have to conduct FDA-style drug trials.
The case was heard by a three-judge panel. Americans for Safe Access would like another shot with the panel or with the full D.C. Circuit. Barring that, the group says it will take its case to the Supreme Court.
Eighteen states currently allow patients to use marijuana to relieve ailments, but the drug is still illegal at the federal level, even when used for medicinal purposes. That has led to continued federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries that are legal under state laws. Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced bills in February to end the DEA's authority over marijuana.
Americans for Safe Access is asking the Obama administration to drop its opposition to medical marijuana both inside the courtroom and out.
"The Obama Administration's legal efforts are keeping marijuana out of reach for millions of qualified patients who would benefit from its use," ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford said in a statement. "It's time for President Obama or Congress to change our country's harmful federal policy on medical marijuana and treat its use as a public health issue."