A federal appeals court is being asked to order the government to legalize use of marijuana for medical purposes such as controlling nausea in cancer patients.

The Drug Enforcement Administration ignored evidence that marijuana can ease the suffering of patients with cancer, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis, said plaintiffs in the case being argued Monday before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.Marijuana has been shown to ease nausea in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, lessen muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis and reduce eye pressure for glaucoma patients, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics. They are represented in court by the Drug Policy Foundation.

The DEA acknowledges that the drug's therapeutic potential has been noted by doctors for 150 years.

But the agency has repeatedly rejected bids to allow medical use of marijuana, most recently in December 1989. It contends that marijuana is still a research drug and that it has not been accepted by the medical community as having a medical use.