WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- A U.S. appeals court refused to order a change to the U.S. government's drug classification that lists marijuana as dangerous and with no accepted medical use.
Because of Tuesday's decision, marijuana will remain classified as a drug as dangerous as heroin even though 20 states and the District of Columbia approved its use for medical purposes, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Writing for the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Judge Harry Edwards said the judges don't dispute that "marijuana could have some medical benefits," but were unwilling to overrule the Drug Enforcement Administration because they haven't seen "well-controlled studies" establishing the marijuana's medical worth.
The opinion said the judges must defer to the judgment of federal health experts who said more evidence was needed before marijuana could be reclassified.
In its court challenge, the marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access argued that federal officials were obligated to re-examine medical evidence and reclassify marijuana as a drug that has benefits for those suffering and in pain, the Times said.
The court's opinion cited the DEA's counter-argument that 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."
Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, told the Times the group would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"We are also turning our attention to Congress," she said. "It is time we had a conversation about marijuana at the federal level."
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