The medical marijuana defense group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) filed a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday against two federal agencies over their contention that marijuana "has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States." The lawsuit names the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as defendants. ASA accused the FDA and HHS of issuing "false and misleading" statements about the medicinal uses of marijuana.
"The FDA position on medical cannabis is incorrect, dishonest and a flagrant violation of laws requiring the government to base policy on sound science," said Joe Elford, ASA chief counsel.
"The science to support medical cannabis is overwhelming, yet the government continues to play politics with the lives of patients desperately in need of pain relief," said ASA executive director Steph Sherer. "Americans for Safe Access is filing this lawsuit on medical cannabis to demand that the FDA stop holding science hostage to politics."
The filing of the lawsuit comes at the end of a two-year petition process during which the FDA and HHS refused to respond to complaints that they were playing politics with the science of medicinal marijuana. The lawsuit charges that the two agencies are violating the Data Quality Act, which requires federal agencies to rely on sound science. The act, originally crafted by industrial lobbyists as a weapon their corporate clients can use in their ongoing battles with federal regulators, also allows citizens to challenge inaccurate information or that based on faulty data.
ASA first filed a petition seeking redress from HHS in October 2004, but the agency refused to act on the petition. ASA appealed in May 2005, to no avail. Now it is taking its challenge to the federal courts.
"Citizens have a right to expect the government to use the best available information for policy decisions. This innovative case turns the Data Quality Act into a tool for the public interest," said preeminent legal scholar and case co-counsel Alan Morrison, who founded Public Citizen's Litigation Group and currently serves as a senior lecturer at Stanford Law School.