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  Activist Enlists Ally in Bid to Legalize Pot
Posted by CN Staff on July 18, 2005 at 07:02:48 PT
By Eric Bailey, Times Staff Writer 
Source: Los Angeles Times 

medical Washington, D.C. -- He is an unabashed Big Business conservative. She's a liberal who favors the little guy. He's a Washington insider dating back to the days of Nixon. She's all of 29 yet has landed in jail plenty of times for underdog acts of civil disobedience.

Now Beltway lobbyist Jim Tozzi and bicoastal activist Steph Sherer have teamed up for an uphill cause: They aim to legalize medical marijuana in all 50 states.

Sherer's stake is personal and professional. She uses cannabis daily for a spinal injury suffered during her arrest at a Washington protest five years ago. Sherer also runs Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access, a nonprofit bent on making marijuana available to any patient in need.

Tozzi, graying and dark-suited at 67, has come to her aid with a federal law spawned at the behest of corporate America. In 2000, Tozzi helped craft legislation that lets the private sector challenge the scientific reliability of government regulations.

Medical marijuana activists like Sherer consider Tozzi's handiwork a potential boon for a movement thwarted by cops and the courts, most recently a U.S. Supreme Court decision that declined to protect cannabis patients from federal prosecution.

Sherer, an energetic new combatant in a battle that's raged for generations, said she believes medical marijuana activists now have the scientific goods to counter government assertions that pot has no proven medical efficacy.

If U.S. health officials fess up that marijuana is good medicine, she says, the government won't be able to continue blocking the 33-year effort by activists to have cannabis dropped from the restrictive list of illicit drugs, which includes heroin and LSD. That, in turn, could stoke research into prescription forms of cannabis, as well as wider and less contentious medical use.

"There's no way the statement that marijuana has no accepted medical value is true anymore," Sherer said, citing 6,500 scientific articles from around the world on medical cannabis, as well as the thousands of doctor recommendations in California and nine other states still defying federal prohibitions.

So far, federal officials have rebuffed the pleas of Americans for Safe Access.

Arthur J. Lawrence, the assistant U.S. surgeon general, wrote in an April 20 rejection letter that the federal government already has undertaken an exhaustive review of marijuana's medicinal merits. That effort began in 2002 when medical marijuana supporters petitioned U.S. regulators to yank cannabis from Schedule 1, which is reserved for abused drugs devoid of medical value. Lawrence reasoned that Scherer's Data Quality Act request amounted to a duplication of effort.

Complete Title: Activist Enlists Unlikely Ally in Bid to Legalize Pot


Complete Article:

Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Author: Eric Bailey, Times Staff Writer
Published: July 18, 2005
Copyright: 2005 Los Angeles Times

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Comment #1 posted by ekim on July 18, 2005 at 21:30:43 PT
Data Quality Act
ASA: Patient Advocacy Group Appeals HHS Evasion For Immediate Release: Friday, May 20, 2005

Agency Declines to Deny Marijuana has Medical Value, But Will Not Correct Statements.

Washington DC - A medical marijuana advocacy group today filed an appeal to the Department of Health and Human Services after the agency declined their request to either correct or deny their petition seeking to dismiss government assertions that marijuana is dangerous and medically useless.

Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a coalition of patients and doctors wanting easier access to marijuana for research and medical use, filed a petition under the Data Quality Act, a little-known but powerful law that gives people the right to challenge scientific information disseminated by federal agencies.

The original petition calls for HHS to correct "scientifically flawed statements" about marijuana published in the Federal Register, saying they contradict findings of the Institute of Medicine and other authoritative sources.

In a letter dated April 20, 2005, RADM Arthur L. Lawrence, Assistant Surgeon General, informed ASA that they would not be acting on ASA's information quality petition, but would instead consider the information presented thereby in connection to a petition to reschedule marijuana, which has been pending since 2002.

ASA's appeal states that the Data Quality Act and the HHS Guidelines require prompt consideration of a request for correction of information, especially where vital health and medical information is at issue. The appeal states that HHS is evading federal law "by lumping a request for correction of information under the Data Quality Act together with a distinct, farther-reaching and much slower process."

While the HHS Guidelines provide that the agency may use existing procedures to respond to information quality complaints that arise in "rule-making and other formal agency actions [that] already provide well established procedural safeguards that allow affected persons to raise information quality issues on a timely basis," no such procedures exist for a marijuana rescheduling petition. That process is slow. One such petition was pending for more than twenty-two years.

Such a move would allow -- though not compel - either the Drug Enforcement Administration or the Food and Drug Administration to remove it to a lower "Schedule", and allow it to be prescribed for specified conditions and more easily obtained for research.

The petition challenges the government contention that "there have been no studies that have scientifically assessed the efficacy of marijuana for any medical condition." In fact, the group notes, a 1999 Institute of Medicine report concluded that studies have found marijuana helpful "for pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation."

# # # #

A national coalition of 10,000 patients, doctors and advocates, Americans for Safe Access is the largest organization working solely on medical marijuana.

For more information, see:

The appeal filed today may be viewed at:

The full text of ASA's Data Quality Act petition may be viewed at:

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