Doctors, Scientists, and Researchers File Amicus Brief in Ninth Circuit Marijuana Decriminalization Suit

On the heels of the petitioners’ opening brief, filed Sept. 29, a group of medical and scientific experts have voiced support for the petitioners’ bid to decriminalize marijuana under federal law. The amici filed their brief on Tuesday with the Ninth Circuit, where the petition for review is pending. The case stemmed from a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) decision earlier this year to deny a citizen petition asking the agency to deschedule marijuana from its current classification as a Schedule I Controlled Substances Act (CSA) drug.

The amicus brief was filed by 10 doctors, scientists, and researchers with “experience in the scientific and medical fields, including research on medical marijuana.” They first argued that marijuana’s Schedule I classification “materially and significantly limits the ability of researchers to continue to undertake research necessary to test therapeutic uses within the medical and scientific community.” They asserted that the classification limits the availability of research material, i.e., marijuana, particularly of the quality and potency used by patients. Conducting research also requires elaborate but unnecessary security protocols, and is therefore, expensive, they contended.

Despite these difficulties, the brief argued, “scientific and medical communities have made great strides in cannabis research.” The filing cited numerous studies that demonstrate both the safety and health benefits of medical marijuana, particularly since 2016. According to the amici, “contemporary, scientific evidence from large coalitions of scientists and doctors demonstrates that there is no basis on which a fact finder could reasonably examine the record in January 2020 (the date the original petition was filed), particularly the record of scientific evidence that has been published since 2016, and conclude (as the DEA nonetheless did) that there are no medically accepted uses for cannabis.”

These facts, the amici contended, do not square with the petition to delist marijuana’s denial, which was reportedly based on dated research. In an argument parallel to the petitioners’, the amici claimed that under the Administrative Procedure Act, the denial “constitutes a clear abuse of discretion because there is substantial and compelling evidence post-2016 of numerous widespread medically-accepted uses of cannabis in the United States, which makes the Administrator’s reliance on the 2016 denial, and by implication the 1992 Ruling on which it relies, arbitrary and capricious.”

In turn, the amici requested that the court grant the petition for review and order the DEA to initiate rulemaking hearings regarding the rescheduling of cannabis under the CSA.

The doctor, scientist, and researcher amici are represented by Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.