Suit Over Pot's 'Benefit' Stumbles

July 29, 2007

Matthew Hirsch, The Recorder (CA)

An Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit can't put the federal government on trial for saying that marijuana has no medical use -- but it might get to challenge the government for blowing deadlines, a federal judge in California ruled last week.

Americans for Safe Access sued in February after two federal agencies refused to alter government-published statements saying marijuana has "no currently accepted medical use in the United States."

In an eight-page ruling Tuesday, U.S. District Judge William Alsup agreed with Justice Department lawyers that the federal Information Quality Act provides for only administrative, not judicial, review for people to challenge the "quality, objectivity, utility and integrity" of information disseminated by federal agencies.

Alsup's ruling didn't address the government's claim that ASA lacked standing because it failed to identify members who suffered harm from the disputed statements or to show how the issue was germane to ASA's organizational purpose.

Though Alsup rejected ASA's bid to revise those statements, he hinted the plaintiff might be able to at least force the government to address its assertion within a 60-day period provided by law.

"Conceivably," Alsup wrote, "a district court may order an agency to act on the merits of an information-correction petition within a specific time frame."

The Northern District judge dismissed the complaint in ASA v. Department of Health and Human Services, 07-01049, with leave to amend.





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