I just realized that it’s been some time since I gave you an update on the HHS stalling tactics.
As a recap, this is about the efforts by Americans for Safe Access to use a new law called the Data Quality Act to force Health and Human Services to stop spreading false info about medical marijuana (a step which could, theoretically, assist long-term efforts to re-schedule medical marijuana). (Background post — Actual Petition(pdf) )
At the time, I was excited about this, because the law requires that the agency respond in 60 days. (What I did not realize at the time was that the law also allows the agency to grant itself extensions.)
The original complaint was filed on October 6, 2004.
On December 1, HHS responded (in part)
We have not yet completed our response to your complaint because of other agency priorities and the need to coordinate agency review of the response. We hope to provide you with a response within 60 days from the date of this letter.
On February 2, 2005, HHS responded (in part):
Your October 4, 2004, request for correction of information disseminated by the Department of Health and Human Services regarding the medical use of marijuana is still under review. While the goal of the Food and Drug Administration is to respond within 60 days to such requests, we are unable to do so in this case. We anticipate that a response will be forwarded to you by April 1, 2005.
On April 5, 2005, HHS responded (in part):
We wrote to you on February 2, 2005, indicating that we would need additional time to complete our response to your request and expected to reply by April 1, 2005. At this time we are continuing to prepare our response but require additional time to coordinate Agency review. We anticipate that a response will be forwarded to you by April 15, 2005.
On April 20, 2005, HHS gave its “decision” (in part):
Both the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the HHS Information Quality Guidelines provide that federal government agencies may use existing processes that are in place to address correction requests from the public. In the case of marijuana HHS currently is in the process of conducting a review in response to the petition for change that was submitted to DEA in October 2002 by the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC), an association of public-interest groups and medical cannabis patients that includes the ASA.  In the course of the review, HHS will evaluate all the publicly available peer reviewed literature on the efficacy of marijuana
In English… they essentially said that they will not actually answer the question, but instead will refer it to the current marijuana re-scheduling petition and have the charges of misinformation answered through that process — a process that draws upon HHS recommendations. (Of course, one re-scheduling petition for marijuana took 22 years before finally being rejected, so this is obviously an attempt to bury the questions without response and at the same time keep from having to say anything that might end up helping the re-scheduling of marijuana.)
So ASA, on May 19, filed an appeal (according to the procedures, the appeal must be filed with… you guessed it…. Health and Human Services). In that appeal, ASA essentially said “You’re full of crap. Answer the charges.” (although they used different wording)
HHS had 60 days to respond.
On July 28, 2005, HHS responded (in part):
Your appeal of the denial of your Request for Corrections under the Office of Public Health and Science (OPHS) Guidelines for Ensuring the Quality of Information Disseminated to the Public, received by OPHS on May 20, is still under review.We could not respond within the 60 day guideline.At this time we are continuing to prepare our response but require additional time to coordinate Agency review. Our goal is to have a response to your appeal within 60 days of the date of this letter.
(That’ll be roughly one year from the start of the process)
It’s so nice that we have this Data Quality Act now, so we can get quick corrections of bad information in the government.
Oh, and by the way, in case you’re wondering why nobody’s using the Data Quality Act against the ONDCP… In their guidelines, they’ve actually exempted all statements made by ONDCP personnel to the press from being covered by the Data Quality Act.