Advisory: Hearing in Lawsuit Against Federal Government Misinformation on Medical Marijuana

July 10, 2007
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What:    Oral arguments on a motion to dismiss in the lawsuit challenging the federal government position that “marijuana has no accepted medical value”
When:    Thursday, July 12 at 8:00am
Who:      Law professor & co-counsel Alan Morrison (arguing the motion); ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford; medical marijuana patient and ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer will all be available after the hearing for interviews
Where:  Courtroom of Judge William Alsup, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco at 450 Golden Gate

San Francisco, CA -- Patient advocates will argue Thursday that a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s position that “marijuana has no accepted medical value” should proceed to trial. Preeminent legal scholar and co-counsel Alan Morrison, who founded Public Citizen’s Litigation Group and currently serves as a senior lecturer at Stanford Law School, will argue on behalf of patients across the country.

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) filed its suit in February 2007 after nearly two years of administrative petitions using a little-known law called the Data Quality Act (DQA). The DQA requires that federal agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), develop policy based on sound science.

“The federal government has resisted efforts to answer our petition and correct its misinformation due to a misguided position on medical marijuana,” said co-counsel Alan Morrison, who is arguing the case Thursday. “However, it cannot ignore the law and shrug aside a citizen’s right to accurate information, the absence of which is a threat to health and safety.”

The DQA, which passed in 2000 under the Clinton administration, has never been reviewed judicially. If it advances past the “motion to dismiss” stage, the ASA lawsuit will create a precedent allowing the public to challenge misinformation disseminated by the federal government. “The claim by HHS that its actions cannot be reviewed in the courts would render the DQA impotent,” said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford. “Surely Congress did not intend to pass meaningless and unenforceable laws.”

Taking an aggressive posture, ASA filed a motion for summary judgment before the government had filed its motion to dismiss. As a result, a hearing on the motion for summary judgment is scheduled for August 23. To illustrate how the government is violating the DQA by stating that, “there have been no studies that have scientifically assessed the efficacy of marijuana for any medical condition,” ASA included a stack of more than thirty scientific studies confirming marijuana’s medical efficacy in its exhibits in support of the motion.

“The science to support medical cannabis is overwhelming, yet the government continues to play politics with the lives of patients desperately in need of pain relief,” said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. “Americans for Safe Access is filing this lawsuit on medical cannabis to demand that the FDA stop holding science hostage to politics.”

The plaintiff’s case was affirmed by a May 4 editorial in Science Magazine, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which posited that HHS had “violated its own DQA guidelines.” The Science editorial followed a February publication by the peer-reviewed journal Neurology of a human trials study in the U.S. clearly showing that marijuana relieved neuropathic pain in people living with HIV/AIDS.

Click here for further information on the Data Quality Act and ASA’s lawsuit
Click here for the government’s motion to dismiss and ASA’s opposition
Click here for the Science Magazine editorial on ASA’s lawsuit using the DQA

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With over 30,000 active members in more than 40 states, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. ASA works to overcome political and legal barriers by creating policies that improve access to medical cannabis for patients and researchers through legislation, education, litigation, grassroots actions, advocacy and services for patients and the caregivers.

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