Science Magazine Weighs in on Federal Medical Marijuana Lawsuit

May 03, 2007
Oakland, CA -- Former FDA Commissioner and Editor-in-Chief of Science Magazine, Dr. Don Kennedy, authored an editorial on medical marijuana in this week's edition of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) publication. The AAAS concluded that the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) violated its own guidelines regarding information quality when it rejected the petition filed by national medical marijuana advocacy organization Americans for Safe Access (ASA).

In February 2007, ASA filed a lawsuit in United States District Court in San Francisco against HHS and FDA for violating the little known Data Quality Act (DQA). The DQA is a mechanism to ensure that regulatory agencies base policy decisions on sound science. The DQA lawsuit followed a two year administrative process in which HHS denied ASA's petition.

"This is vindication from the scientific community that the medical efficacy of marijuana clearly exists and is being ignored by the federal government," said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. "The opinion illustrates the broad nature of support for the advancement of this important medicine."

The following is an excerpt from the Science Magazine editorial:

"...Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a group advocating marijuana availability for severely ill patients needing pain or nausea relief, petitioned the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the DQA in 2004. They alleged that HHS made false statements in its publications and its Web site, in particular that marijuana 'has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.' ASA cited an Institute of Medicine study that acknowledged benefits from the use of marijuana and cannabinoid derivatives and referenced double-blind clinical trials demonstrating relief from pain and vomiting. HHS delayed a response for months beyond its own deadline, rejected the petition, and then rejected the appeal.

"ASA finally brought its case to federal court, asking it to substitute for the agency's false statement one that says, 'Adequate and well-recognized studies show the efficacy of marijuana in the treatment of nausea, loss of appetite, pain and spasticity.' Will the judge make HHS change, giving ASA the injunctive relief it seeks? We'll have to wait to see whether this case turns the tables on DQA, but it's already clear that HHS has violated its own DQA guidelines--going, you might say, one toke over the line."

The DQA lawsuit is currently pending before U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup. The government's response to ASA's complaint is due May 25, 2007, and the court is likely to hear oral arguments in July or August. "We're confident that science will ultimately prevail over politics," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford. "The DQA is the vehicle to compel the federal government to recognize the truth about medical marijuana and validate the experiences of patients and doctors who have had success using it to alleviate suffering."

To purchase the entire editorial, entitled "Turning the Tables with Mary Jane," visit the Science Magazine website.

For materials filed in the case to date, see ASA's DQA page.

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