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Fear at HHS?
What is HHS afraid of? The agency has just issued their sixth letter delaying a decision on the Data Quality appeal by Americans for Safe Access (ASA).

ASA is the "largest grassroots organization fighting for safe and legal access" to marijuana for medical purposes.

In October 2004, ASA filed a Data Quality petition with HHS seeking correction of the agency's statement that "marijuana has no currently accepted medical use...." According to ASA, the HHS statement "lacks objectivity, utility, transparency, peer review, and public participation. Thus, HHS has failed to ensure that the information it disseminates is based on sound science, as required by law."

HHS rejected the ASA petition in April 2005 but on procedural rather than substantive grounds. ASA appealed the initial decision a month later.

The latest HHS "Interim Response" again states that the "we are continuing to prepare our response but require additional time to coordinate Agency review." HHS has now been coordinating Agency review of the ASA appeal for almost a year.

It appears that HHS is concerned that: 1) they cannot truthfully deny the petition, i.e., they believe that marijuana does have medical value; and 2) decisions under the Data Quality Act are judicially reviewable, the 4th Circuit "Salt" case not withstanding.

If the agency believed that marijuana did not have medical value, they could have rejected the petition and provided their rationale. If the FDA thought that the 4th Circuit case was definitive, they could dismiss the petition without any concern of court action. The logical conclusion is that the latest extension reflects HHS unease with both their own formal position on the medical value of marijuana and with their legal position should the issue go to court.

Winston is not a medical professional and not qualified to comment on the substance of ASA's petition. However, being a watchdog, Winston has a keen sense of smell. At HHS, he smells fear.
  • Click here for ASA petition and HHS responses (Item No. 20)
  • Click here for ASA website


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