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STEVE ELLIOTT

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Americans for Safe Access Says Changes Not Good Enough, Still in Violation of IQA

After months of public pressure, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has removed factually inaccurate misinformation about marijuana from its website.

The change comes after Americans for Safe Access, a national nonprofit dedicated to ensuring safe and legal access to medical cannabis for therapeutic use and research, filed a legal request with the Department of Justice last year demanding that the DEA immediately update and remove misinformation about cannabis from their website and materials.

Americans for Safe Access argued that the more than 25 false statements on the DEA’s website about cannabis constituted a violation of the Information Quality Act (IQA, aka Data Quality Act) which requires that administrative agencies not provide misinformation to the public and that they respond to requests for correction of information within 60 days.

One publication, “Dangers and Consequences of Marijuana”, contained 23 of the 25 factual inaccuracies in violation of the Information Quality Act. Such misinformation included claims that cannabis was a gateway drug, caused irreversible cognitive decline in adults, and contributed to psychosis and lung cancer.

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Steph Sherer, Americans for Safe Access:
“This is a big first step”
[ASA]

“The DEA’s removal of these popular myths about cannabis from their website could mean the end of the Washington gridlock,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access. “This is a victory for medical cannabis patients across the nation, who rely on cannabis to treat serious illnesses.

“The federal government now admits that cannabis is not a gateway drug, and doesn’t cause long-term brain damage, or psychosis,” Sherer said. “While the fight to end stigma around cannabis is far from over, this is a big first step.”

But the fight is not over. As of February 13, the government is one week beyond the required deadline to respond to the Americans for Safe Access’ legal petition and the group claims that the DEA is still spreading false information about cannabis.

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Vickie Feeman, Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe:
“The DEA continues to disseminate many damaging ‘facts’ about the health risks of medical cannabis and patients across the country face ongoing harm as a result of these alternative facts”
[Orrick]

“We are pleased that in the face of our request the DEA withdrew some of the damaging misinformation from its website,” said Vickie Feeman, of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. “However, the DEA continues to disseminate many damaging ‘facts’ about the health risks of medical cannabis and patients across the country face ongoing harm as a result of these alternative facts.  We are hopeful the DEA will also remove the remaining statements rather than continue to mislead the public in the face of the scientifically proven benefits of medical cannabis.”

“If the DEA does not take the necessary action to comply with the binding time lines in the IQA, petitioners can always seek an intervention by OMB as the Department of Justice so informed the court in W. Harkonen v. USDOJ or in the courts as demonstrated in Prime Time v. USDA,” said Jim Tozzi, the father of the Information Quality Act and member of ASA’s Patient Focused Certification Reviewboard.

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Jim Tozzi, author of the
Information Quality Act:

“If the DEA does not take the necessary action to comply with the binding time lines in the IQA, petitioners can always seek an intervention by OMB”
[ASA Unity Conference 2017]

Misinformation-Free Website Especially Important In Sessions Era

Americans for Safe Access argues that correcting false information about cannabis is especially important now that the Department of Justice is led by newly-confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions has been a staunch opponent of cannabis. As a supporter of the DEA, Sessions cites their publications and opinions about marijuana to justify his opposition to medical cannabis policy reform.

On Monday, Americans for Safe Access delivered a letter to the DEA explaining:

“It is crucial that the DEA correct it’s inaccurate statements, especially in light of Senator Jeff Sessions’ confirmation as Attorney General of the United States. Attorney General Sessions has made several statements demonstrating his beliefs that cannabis is a gateway drug and that its psychological effects are permanent. These beliefs are verifiably false, as confirmed by the DEA in its “Denial of Petition to Initiate Proceedings to Reschedule Marijuana.”[1]

As the top law enforcement official in the nation, Mr. Sessions must have access to accurate information based on current scientific data in order to make informed decisions regarding the enforcement (or non-enforcement) of federal drug laws.  Allowing Mr. Sessions to make law enforcement decisions based on biased, out-of-date information does a tremendous disservice to ASA’s members and the American people at large. Therefore, ASA respectfully requests that the DEA respond to its Request, and/or remove the remaining inaccurate statements from its website.”

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