It was two sentences tucked inside a 2000 appropriations bill. But over the years, the Data Quality Act — which directs the Office of Management and Budget to make sure that all information disseminated by the federal government is reliable — has proved a potent lobbying tool.
By requiring the government to use data that have reached a near-perfect level of certainty, critics say the legislation has provided industry with a convenient means of eliminating scientific information that in the past might have triggered stricter legislation.
But the law, of course, is available to anyone, including the marijuana lobby, which earlier this month formally filed a Data Quality Act petition with the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The petition, filed on Oct. 16 by the Marijuana Policy Project, takes issue with the title of a July 2008 report by the ONDCP called “Marijuana: The Greatest Cause of Illegal Drug Abuse.”
The 20-page report includes such chapter headers as “Juvenile Delinquent Behavior Is Closely Associated with Marijuana Use” and “Marijuana Is the Most Commonly Used Illicit Drug.”
Marijuana Policy Project Director of Government Relations Aaron Houston says the title is erroneous.
The Data Quality Act, he said, “deals with the quality of information that is presented. And the crux of this,” he said, “is that there is not factual support for [the report’s title], that it relies on a pretty big inference.”
The office has 60 days to respond to the petition, said ONDCP spokeswoman Jennifer de Vallance, adding that “legal counsel and relevant staff are reviewing the complaint.”
“The only real problem they have is the title,” she noted, “and it’s questionable whether the title represents actual data.”
Responded Houston: “Obviously the title is one of the most salient pieces of information that they are providing.”