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DEA seeks medicinal review for marijuana

Medical Marijuana January 14, 1998
Web posted at: 1:28 a.m. EST (0628 GMT)

From CNN Justice Department correspondent Pierre Thomas

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Drug Enforcement Administration has requested the Department of Health and Human Services to review whether marijuana is a hard drug with addictive properties and no legitimate medical use.

But there is strong disagreement over whether the request suggests any shift in the DEA's position on the classification of marijuana as a prohibited "schedule 1 substance."

The DEA action follows an administrative petition filed by Jon Gettman, former president of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and by Trans High Corp., publisher of High Times Magazine.

DEA officials privately maintain they have not changed their position but that administrative procedures and the nature of the petition require them to seek scientific analysis.

However, Gettman's supporters argue DEA could have rejected the petition outright, and that the agency does not ask for HHS studies "lightly."

Gettman supporters refer to a July 1995, DEA memo to Gettman saying a referral to HHS would come only if there were "sufficient grounds" to justify a change in current federal policy on marijuana.

Those supporters also note DEA officials had earlier maintained they knew of no scientific studies which would change the federal classification of marijuana.

The request for HHS evaluation came after Gettman and High Times officials provided DEA with a number of specific studies on the effects of marijuana.

A DEA official said that was correct -- but that these studies "are of unknown relevance. We are not scientists over here."

The agency will leave it to HHS to determine the validity of the studies, as federal guidelines require.

"We view this as a routine matter," the DEA official said.


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