DEA Law Judge Backs Legalizing Marijuana for Some Medical Uses
A Drug Enforcement Administration administrative law judge, calling marijuana “one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man,” recommended Tuesday that the drug be made legally available for some medical purposes, including treatment of cancer patients.
If adopted, the opinion by Judge Francis L. Young would mean that doctors could prescribe marijuana--a fundamental change in the drug’s legal status that some specialists said could aid tens of thousands of patients suffering from nausea-inducing chemotherapy and muscle spasms of multiple sclerosis.
The opinion is not likely to have any immediate effect because DEA Administrator John C. Lawn is considered almost certain to reject Young’s conclusions. But the 69-page ruling marks the first time a government official has accepted a medical role for the country’s most widely used illicit drug.
“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,” Young wrote. “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.”
Young’s ruling, which cites medical researchers from Harvard, New York University and other leading medical schools, comes in the form of a recommendation to Lawn to change the status of marijuana under the 1970 Controlled Substance Act. Since the act was passed, marijuana has been classified with heroin and LSD as a Schedule I controlled substance, which means it is an illegal drug with no known medical use.
Young recommends that Lawn use discretionary authority to make marijuana a Schedule II substance. This means it would become a drug--like morphine and cocaine.