The Tenth Circuit issued an important ruling today, signing off on pentobarbital as an appropriate drug to be used in capital punishment.

Death penalty states, as we’ve reported, are stymied due to a nationwide shortage of thiopental sodium, an anesthetic long used by states to render condemned inmates unconscious during executions.

Oklahoma recently proposed substituting pentobarbital for thiopental.

Defense lawyers in the state have asserted that pentobarbital is unproven and risky, potentially subjecting inmates to a severely painful death.

But Oklahoma, the first state to propose using pentobarbital, has claimed that it is safe and has a long track record in animal euthanasia.

The 10th Circuit sided with Oklahoma. Oklahoma has proven, according to the court, that it will use enough pentobarbital to achieve a quick death and that the chances of inmates suffering pain are “virtually nil.”

Oklahoma is scheduled to use pentobarbital in two upcoming execution: John David Duty, on Dec. 16, and Jeffrey Matthews on January 11.