U.S. asked to stop 'false information' on medical pot
April 13, 2009
Carol J. Williams and Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times
Reporting from San Francisco and Los Angeles -- Citing "overwhelming" evidence that marijuana eases pain and anxiety for the chronically ill, medicinal pot advocates told a federal appeals panel Tuesday that the federal government should be stopped from spreading "false information" about marijuana.
As was argued in the debate over whether stem cell research should be resumed, Americans for Safe Access cast the Bush administration's opposition to any legalized use of marijuana as being shaped by conservative sentiments instead of hard facts.
Marijuana is banned under federal law but is legal for cancer patients and others suffering chronic illnesses in California and a dozen other states. Safe Access sued the federal government under a law that prohibits it from disseminating inaccurate information.
U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder signaled last month that the administration wouldn't interfere with medical pot dispensing in states where it is legal as long as users abide by state law.
Safe Access argues that the federal government needs to update its assessment to conform with the reality of marijuana's broadening legal use as a pain reliever.
"The science to support medical marijuana is overwhelming. It's time for the federal government to acknowledge the efficacy of medical marijuana and stop holding science hostage to politics," said Steph Sherer, director of Americans for Safe Access.
The group petitioned for revision of the federal judgment in 2004 but was ignored by Bush officials, who also sought and won federal district court dismissal of a 2007 lawsuit filed by Safe Access.
Justice Department lawyer Alisa Klein told the appeals court panel that the government shouldn't be forced to defend the accuracy of "countless pieces of information" in its massive archives. U.S. Circuit Court Judge Marsha S. Berzon, an appointee of President Clinton, said the law at issue in the case was "amazing" because it did appear to require the government to correct all inaccurate statements, a result she called "troubling."
Despite the positive signals emanating from Washington lately, Alan Morrison, founder of Public Citizen's Litigation Group who argued on behalf of Safe Access, said the plaintiffs hadn't expected a government turnaround just yet.
Amid economic turmoil and global crises, he said, medical marijuana "is well below the radar scope of the Obama administration."