Patient Advocacy Group Appeals HHS Evasion

May 20, 2005
Washington DC – A medical marijuana advocacy group filed an appeal with the Department of Health and Human Services after the agency declined their request to either correct or deny their petition seeking to dismiss government assertions that marijuana is dangerous and medically useless.

Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a coalition of patients and doctors wanting easier access to marijuana for research and medical use, filed a petition under the Data Quality Act, a little-known but powerful law that gives people the right to challenge scientific information disseminated by federal agencies.

The original petition calls for HHS to correct "scientifically flawed statements" about marijuana published in the Federal Register, saying they contradict findings of the Institute of Medicine and other authoritative sources.

In a letter dated April 20, 2005, RADM Arthur L. Lawrence, Assistant Surgeon General, informed ASA that they would not be acting on ASA's information quality petition, but would instead consider the information presented thereby in connection to a petition to reschedule marijuana, which has been pending since 2002.

ASA's appeal states that the Data Quality Act and the HHS Guidelines require prompt consideration of a request for correction of information, especially where vital health and medical information is at issue. The appeal states that HHS is evading federal law "by lumping a request for correction of information under the Data Quality Act together with a distinct, farther-reaching and much slower process."

While the HHS Guidelines provide that the agency may use existing procedures to respond to information quality complaints that arise in “rule-making and other formal agency actions [that] already provide well established procedural safeguards that allow affected persons to raise information quality issues on a timely basis,” no such procedures exist for a marijuana rescheduling petition. That process is slow. One such petition was pending for more than twenty-two years.

Such a move would allow -- though not compel – either the Drug Enforcement Administration or the Food and Drug Administration to remove it to a lower "Schedule", and allow it to be prescribed for specified conditions and more easily obtained for research.

The petition challenges the government contention that "there have been no studies that have scientifically assessed the efficacy of marijuana for any medical condition." In fact, the group notes, a 1999 Institute of Medicine report concluded that studies have found marijuana helpful "for pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation."
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A national coalition of 10,000 patients, doctors and advocates, Americans for Safe Access is the largest organization working solely on medical marijuana. For more information, see www.safeaccessnow.org
The appeal filed today may be viewed at http://safeaccessnow.org/downloads/DQA%20Appeal.pdf
The full text of ASA's Data Quality Act petition may be viewed at http://www.safeaccessnow.org/article.php?id=1465


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