Accepted Medical Use and Schedule I Regulation

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When there are questions about the meaning of language used in the U.S. Code, they are resolved by the Courts. The U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that “lack of accepted medical use” does not, by itself, justify Schedule I status for a drug. A drug or substance must satisfy all of the findings required by Congress, not just one of them.

If, as respondent (DEA) contends, a determination that the substance has no accepted medical use ends the inquiry, then presumably Congress would have spelled that out in its procedural guidelines. Its failure to do so indicates an intent to reserve to HEW a finely tuned balancing process involving several medical and scientific considerations . . .

Admittedly, Section 202(b), 21 U.S.C. 812(b), which sets forth the criteria for placement in each of the five CSA schedules, established medical use as the factor that distinguishes substances in Schedule I from those in Schedule I. However, placement in Schedule I does not appear to flow inevitably from lack of a currently accepted medical use. Like that of Section 201(c), the structure of Section 202(b) contemplates balancing of medical usefulness along with several other considerations, including potential for abuse and danger of dependence. To treat medical use as the controlling factor in classification decisions is to render irrelevant the other “findings” required by Section 202(b). The legislative history of the CSA indicates that medical use is but one factor to be considered, and by no means the most important one. NORML v. DEA, 559 F.2d 735, 748. (1977).

The Court of Appeals added a footnote to the statement cited above to make their interpretation of the statute clear. They made note that the legislative history is precise on which, if any, findings were more important than others.

A key criterion for controlling a substance, and the one which will be used most often, is the substances potential for abuse.. .Final Control by the Attorney General will also be based on his findings as to the substance’s potential for abuse. U.S. Code Cong. & Admin. News (1970) p. 4601.