January 22, 2013 / 4:46 PM / 6 years ago

Medical benefits of marijuana still hazy - U.S. court

WASHINGTON, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Supporters of medical marijuana may have some evidence to back up their claims of its health benefits, but not enough to overrule the U.S. government’s judgment that the drug should be tightly controlled, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday.

The ruling means the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration can keep marijuana on its list of the most dangerous, tightly controlled drugs, alongside heroin.

Medical marijuana supporters sued over the DEA’s classification in 2011, and they hoped the suit would build on victories at the ballot box in states such as Colorado and Washington.

But the challengers, including a disabled veteran from Virginia, failed to show convincingly that marijuana has an effective, accepted and safe medical use, said the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C.

Without further scientific evidence, the court must defer to the DEA, wrote Judge Harry Edwards for a 2-1 majority. The third judge also sided with the DEA but for a different reason, finding that none of the challengers had a right to sue.

Since 1970, the U.S. government has classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug, a category it reserves for drugs with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.

The case is Americans for Safe Access, et al, v. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, No. 11-1265. (Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Howard Goller; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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