With the evolution of the United States’ relationship with cannabis over recent decades, numerous parties have petitioned the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) to reschedule marijuana. As we all know, the DEA has routinely refused to accept or denied each and every petition, minus one that yielded very specific changes for a synthetic cannabis drug. As people realized petitioning the DEA wasn’t going to work, they moved their petitions to the judicial system, citing that the DEA’s administrative process was too dysfunctional and took too long. However, despite the sheer volume of attempts, these have, for the most part, not even been heard on their merits.
Why? The exhaustion of remedies doctrine requires that administrative or other non-judicial avenues be pursued and “exhausted” prior to entering the court system. In principle, this doctrine makes sense: it allows agencies in specialized areas to flush out any issues, it ensures administrative processes are followed and uninterrupted, and it conserves judicial resources. But here, it basically allowed the DEA to continue its practice of effectively ignoring petitions for decades.
In Sisley, et al. v. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, et al., Case No. 20-71433, a group of scientists and veterans sued the DEA