HHS continues to stall

Eric Sterling reminds me of something I’ve neglected for awhile.
You see, there’s this law called the Data Quality Act that allows for forcing the correction of inaccurate information disseminated by government agencies. The great thing about it is that the agency is required by law to respond in 60 days. Given the way the government has tried block drug policy reformers at every step through delays and circular appeals processes, this seemed like a great avenue to pursue (the first petition to reschedule marijuana took 22 years to go through the process). Americans for Safe Access put forth a petition in October, 2004.
Ah, but it turns out that the law doesn’t have much by way of teeth and if the agency doesn’t respond in 60 days it can turn to… itself and grant itself an extension. Once it issues a ruling, you can appeal that ruling… to the same agency, which then must respond within 60 days or… grant itself an extension. Yes, this is how our government works.
Here are a few of my posts on the subject.

  • My first post on it, in October, 2004
  • My disappointment with a second extension by HHS
  • Recap of the first three extensions so far in April, 2005 and my conjecture of how HHS would respond.
  • Late April, 2005 HHS finally responds by saying it doesn’t need to respond at this time. ASA appeals the “response.”
  • Update on appeal process in August, 2005 as HHS continues to grant itself extension after extension on the appeal.

And now, 19 months into the 60 day process comes the latest:

Date: April 12, 2006
To: Joseph D. Elford, Esq.
Americans for Safe Access
Dear Mr. Elford:
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, 2005 is still under review.
We wrote to you on February 07, 2006 indicating that we would need additional time to complete our response to your appeal. 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.
John S. Jarman, Excutive Officer,
Office of Public Health and Science,
Office of the Secretary,
Department of Health and Human Services

8 days later, the FDA came out with its outrageous statement against medical marijuana with the statement:

A past evaluation by several Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA), concluded that no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use.

This, of course, is precisely the incorrect information that the ASA petition is trying to correct and that the HHS is dragging their heels in responding.
The deceit and delaying tactics are unbelievable! Despite my interest in the process, I even dropped the ball for a while because it just dragged on so long. That’s what they want — that we’ll lose interest (or die) before they actually address the issues. But they won’t get away with it in the long run. Eventually, they’ll run out of stalling tactics and the courts will have to step in.

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