Salt Suit Bad For Industry; Medical Pot May Be The Remedy




Date: March 24, 2006


Industry’s hopes of using the Information Quality Act to challenge in

court regulatory decisions were dashed by a recent U.S. appeals court

ruling against the salt industry, but sources say a likely medical

marijuana lawsuit could rehash the debate over judicial review.


If a group challenging FDA’s position against medical marijuana goes to

court, that lawsuit would be much firmer and could lead to a

contradictory ruling, according to a source at the Center for Regulatory

Effectiveness, which lobbied for the IQA and supports judicial review of

agency decisions. The CRE is not involved in the medical marijuana



IQA supporters, such as CRE, are reeling from the appeals court ruling

against the Salt Institute, which used the act to challenge HHS

statements that there is a link between salt intake and high blood



“By its terms, this statute [IQA] creates no legal rights in any third

parties,” according to the ruling. “Instead, it orders the Office of

Management and Budget to draft guidelines concerning information quality

and specifies what those guidelines should contain.”


“Because the statute upon which appellants rely does not create a legal

right to access to information or to correctness, appellants have not

alleged an invasion of a legal right and, thus, have failed to establish

an injury in fact sufficient to satisfy Article III.”


IQA supporters fear the ruling could set a legal precedent against use

of the data quality act for judicial review. “On one hand, it is

unquestionably a blow,” to the IQA, says CRE’s Bruce Levinson. “But it’s

not fatal.”


The data quality law requires that federal agencies justify regulatory

decisions with scientific data. If the government disseminates

information that a group believes violates the law, the group may

petition the government for a correction.


The biggest question, and controversy, over the IQA is whether it allows

judicial review of the data and studies agencies use.


In Salt Institute, et al. v. Leavitt, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the

4th Circuit court considered whether industry could challenge in court a

dispute over a HHS rejection of an IQA petition. HHS has stated that

reducing salt consumption lowers blood pressure for everyone, and the

Salt Institute opposes that statement.


Levinson said the salt industry suit had a weak case.


“It was nonhelpful,” he said, referring to the impact of the case as a



The Salt Institute did not ask for a correction, according to the

ruling, which is the point of the IQA. Also, the Salt Institute could

not show any harm to industry, according to Levinson, who said the data

that industry questioned is widely supported by other studies.


“Because appellants’ lone request was that information be made public,

NHLBI [National Heart Lung and Blood Institute] construed their petition

for correction as a request for information under the Freedom of

Information Act (FOIA) and denied it,” the ruling states.


But the salt suit likely is not the last word. The Americans for Safe

Access, who’s petition challenging FDA’s position on medical marijuana

has been repeatedly delayed, plans to eventually sue, according to a

spokesperson for the group.


Levinson said that case will likely be much stronger.


ASA is asking for a specific correction. Also, ASA can show harm because

patients are being deprived of a drug that could help them in certain

cases, Levinson said.