The decision is expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court by the advocacy group that brought the lawsuit.
Americans for Safe Access attorneys argued that DEA officials should re-evaluate the medical evidence and reclassify marijuana as a drug that has definite medical benefits, especially for those who are in pain. Attorney Joe Elford told the court that the government agency displayed a bias against marijuana and therefore ignored its benefits and exaggerated its dangers.
Some Medical Benefits
The group had asked the DEA to move marijuana to a lower level of federal restrictions, but the agency refused, prompting the lawsuit. The suit claimed the government was ignoring "a growing body" of scientific evidence that marijuana had some medical benefits.
But the DEA disagreed.
"To establish accepted medical use, the effectiveness of a drug must be established in well-controlled, well-designed, well-conducted and well-documented scientific studies with a large number of patients. To date, such studies have not been performed," the DEA argued.
No Large, Controlled Studies
Writing for the court, Judge Harry Edwards said the court did not dispute that marijuana may have some medical benefits, but they had not see any "large, well-controlled studies" that proved the benefits.
"We find nothing in the record that could move us to conclude that the agency failed to prove by substantial evidence that such studies confirming marijuana's medical efficacy do not exist," Judge Edwards said.
Currently, 20 states and the District of Columbia have made medical marijuana legal, either by voter initiative or legislative action.