Activists challenge feds on marijuana

October 04, 2004

Josh Richman, Oakland Tribune

A Berkeley-based organization announced Monday it will file a petition with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services charging the agency with putting politics over science on the issue of medical marijuana.

Americans for Safe Access believes the department provides bad information on marijuana's value as medicine, in violation of law that requires federal agencies to rely on sound science.

ASA's goal is to force the department to admit publicly that marijuana is routinely used for medical treatment, which they hope would help clear the way for easing restrictions on access to medical marijuana.

'The science on medical marijuana is sound,' said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. 'It's safe, effective medicine. For 30 years, our government has denied the medical research, but now we have law that requires them to use sound science.'

ASA held a news conference Monday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., announcing its new effort.

Health and Human Services in 2001 reached a conclusion, after a Food and Drug Administration review, that 'marijuana has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.' ASA's petition claims established research, federal reports and patient experience all show marijuana works for pain, nausea, loss of appetite and spasticity.

Nine states including California now have laws letting patients legally use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation; federal law still bans all cultivation, possession and use of marijuana.

The U.S. Supreme Court in November will hear arguments on a case filed in part by Angel McClary Raich of Oakland, in which she and another patient claim the federal ban is an illegal overextension of congressional power that violates their constitutional rights.

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