DOES MARIJUANA HAVE MEDICAL USE? NATIONAL PROTESTS DEMAND HHS ANSWER

October 26, 2005

For Immediate Release:
October 26, 2005

NATIONWIDE -- In the continued push to resolve the state-federal conflict over medical marijuana laws, hundreds of patients and advocates rallied today at the Washington DC headquarters of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and six regional outposts in San Francisco, Denver, Seattle, Kansas City,
Philadelphia and Dallas, demanding that HHS head Michael Leavitt respond to rescheduling petitions and admit marijuana has medical use. Advocates also delivered "medical evidence" of 6500 studies from medical journals demonstrating a multitude of medical uses for marijuana.

Americans for Safe Access, the national medical marijuana advocacy group responsible for the protests, is one of the 2002 petitioners to HHS to reclassify marijuana. The group also launched a legal challenge to HHS in 2004 to correct published medical marijuana misinformation under the Data Quality Act (DQA), a little-known law that requires federal agencies to rely on sound science. According to group spokespeople, responses by HHS to both petitions are long overdue.

During the Washington DC rally, Michael Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services, was served with both official Notice of Intent to Sue for illegally delaying reply to the DQA petition, and 20,000 signatures from patients nationwide demanding that science and public health prevail when HHS makes its decision on petition requests to reschedule marijuana.

John Shaw, a San Francisco AIDS survivor who uses marijuana to treat his neuropathy, spoke to the crowd in San Francisco, "Michael Leavitt, your time is up. We presented the medical evidence almost four years ago to HHS, and we are still waiting for any response. People with AIDS throughout America cannot wait any longer – we deserve an answer!"

If the patient-advocacy group prevails in its DQA petition, the Department of Health and Human Services will have to change its tune on medical marijuana and publicly admit that marijuana is now routinely used for medical treatment, clearing the way for doctors to prescribe it to their patients. According to both petitions, public health
must prevail when it comes to marijuana law, since established research, federal reports and patient experience all show marijuana works for pain, nausea, loss of appetite, anxiety, and spasticity, the severe muscle spasms associated with Multiple Sclerosis, spinal injury and other conditions.

Currently, ten states have laws permitting patients to legally use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation, but these laws are at odds with the federal prohibition that categorizes marijuana as more dangerous than cocaine or amphetamines. The Department of Health and Human Services is one of the four entities that can independently change the classification of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. The others are the Drug Enforcement Administration, Congress, and the Executive Branch.

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