Any hope that President Obama, a legendary pot smoker back at Occidental College in the late 1970s, might reclassify marijuana as a drug that has medicinal value just went up in smoke.
Nine years ago, for the third time since marijuana was prohibited more than a half-century ago, medical marijuana supporters led by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) asked the federal government to reclassify cannabis so that it's not listed alongside heroin as a purely dangerous narcotic. Today, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) responded with a resounding "Yeah, right. What are you smoking?"
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As negative as it is, the fact that the government finally rejected the petition is being called a victory of sorts by medical pot backers. For one thing, according to an LA Times story today, they had to go to a federal court to force the DEA to even respond at all. And now that the answer is no, they get to appeal the decision without further prevarication.
"We have foiled the government's strategy of delay, and we can now go head-to-head on the merits, that marijuana really does have therapeutic value," Joe Elford, an ASA lawyer, told the Times. Elford added that he wasn't surprised by the decision given recent signs that the Obama administration, despite promising not to go after medical pot patients, had no such qualms about prosecuting large-scale marijuana growers.
"It is clearly motivated by a political decision that is anti-marijuana," he said. Elford argued that despite the DEA's stance, there is little debate nowadays that cannabis provides relief to cancer patients and other people struggling with terminal illness and chronic pain. "One of the things people say about marijuana is that it gives you the munchies and the truth is that it does, and for some people that's a very positive thing."
Although Elford said ASA plans to appeal the DEA's decision, the odds aren't looking good for such a tactic: the last two times the government refused to reclassify marijuana, the appeals failed in the courts.