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HHS Conceding Medical Value of Marijuana?
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) appears to be conceding that marijuana has medical utility.

On October 4, 2004, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), an organization seeking to "protect the rights of patients and doctors to use marijuana for medical purposes," filed a Data Quality petition with HHS. The petition challenged HHS statements regarding medical use of marijuana including the declaration that "marijuana has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States."

HHS' Data Quality guidelines state that they "will respond to all requests for correction within 60 calendar days of receipt." The guidelines go to state that if more than 60 days are needed to resolve the issue, they will inform the petitioner and "indicate the reason why...."

If the ASA petition had little merit, HHS should have had no trouble dismissing it on substantive grounds in 60 days. Instead, following three extensions of the 60 day period, the Department finally rejected the petition. Most significantly, HHS did not cite any disagreements with ASA's scientific contentions regarding marijuana. Instead, the decision cited an October 2002 petition (not filed under the DQA) as the appropriate process for evaluating "all the publicly available peer reviewed literature on the efficacy of marijuana."

ASA appealed the HHS decision in May 2005 explaining that HHS cannot "evade its responsibilities" for a speedy resolution of their petition "by lumping a request for correction of information under the Data Quality Act together with a distinct, farther­reaching and much slower process." HHS has yet to act on the ASA appeal. Instead, every 60 days the HHS sends ASA a letter simply stating that they "require additional time to coordinate Agency review."

Winston understands that there could potentially be political pressure on agency officials not to agree that marijuana has medical value. Winston also recognizes and appreciates the dedication and integrity of HHS staff who would be loath to issue a decision they did not believe to be scientifically justified.

The Department's silence on ASA's scientific claims speaks volumes.
  • Click here for ASA petition and HHS responses (Item 20)
  • Click here for ASA website
  • Click here for Los Angeles Times article


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