Administrative Judge Law Ruling to Reschedule Marijuana, 1988

Administrative Judge Law Ruling to Reschedule Marijuana, 1988

Congressional passage of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970 and its placement of marijuana
in Schedule I provoked controversy at the time because it strengthened the federal policy of
marijuana prohibition and forced medical marijuana users to buy marijuana of uncertain quality
on the black market at inflated prices, subjecting them to fines, arrest, court costs, property
forfeiture, incarceration, probation, and criminal records. The new bureaucratic controls on
Schedule I substances were also criticized because they would impede research on marijuana’s
therapeutic potential, thereby making its evaluation and rescheduling through the normal drug
approval process unlikely.
These concerns prompted a citizens’ petition to the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs
(BNDD) in 1972 to reschedule marijuana and make it available by prescription. The petition was
summarily rejected.35 This led to a long succession of appeals, hearing requests, and various court
proceedings. Finally, in 1988, after extensive public hearings on marijuana’s medicinal value,
Francis L. Young, the chief administrative law judge of the Drug Enforcement Administration
(the BNDD’s successor agency), ruled on the petition, stating that “Marijuana, in its natural form,
is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.
”36 Judge Young also wrote:

The evidence in this record clearly shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of
relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under
medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue
to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in
this record.

Judge Young found that “the provisions of the [Controlled Substances] Act permit and require the
transfer of marijuana from schedule I to schedule II,” which would recognize its medicinal value
and permit doctors to prescribe it. The judge’s nonbinding findings and recommendation were
soon rejected by the DEA Administrator because “marijuana has not been demonstrated as
suitable for use as a medicine.

Subsequent rescheduling petitions also have been rejected, and
marijuana remains a Schedule I substance.



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